SEATTLE — Sources have independently confirmed to NBC ProSoccerTalk that United States national team striker Clint Dempsey will sign with Seattle Sounders FC. Doug McIntyre of ESPNFC broke the news on Friday, and NBC’s sources said that Dempsey would be revealed as a Sounders player on Saturday.
The Sounders declined to comment on the multiple reports of Dempsey’s signing on Friday.
Rumors of the deal began circulating on Thursday afternoon, when he was spotted in the San Francisco airport:
Dempsey spoke highly of the atmosphere in Seattle during the week of the U.S.’s 2-0 win over Panama in a World Cup qualifier on June 11. In his pre-match press conference with head coach Jürgen Klinsmann, he said:
I’m good friends with Eddie Johnson. He always tells me about what it’s like, playing here and playing in front of the fans and just how it’s an atmosphere that’s comparable to how it is in Europe. It’s great to see because I remember when I first started out in the MLS, things weren’t like that. It’s great to see that the game is building and there are markets like this that people have so much passion for the game. I almost feel like I was in another country the other day, when the Seattle Sounders game was on while I was walking to get dinner. Just as you walk past the bar, you see that the TV’s on, and everybody’s watching soccer. For me, that was awesome. So I’m happy to play here and look forward to the game and feeling what that atmosphere will be like.
Likely instrumental in this deal, as Dempsey mentioned, is the player’s friendship with Eddie Johnson. They played together at Fulham in the Premier League, as well as being teammates with the U.S. since 2004.
Johnson played it cool on Twitter on Thursday, but his post is now starting to look like misdirection — or perhaps “spilling the beans” while claiming to have not spilled the beans yet.
Dempsey has spoken often of his desire to play at the highest level possible, but while Seattle may not exactly be under the shining lights of the UEFA Champions League, the Sounders do average more than 40,000 fans per game, the highest in MLS.