United States soccer star Clint Dempsey made his return to Major League Soccer this month after signing a four year deal worth over 30 million dollars with the Seattle Sounders. This makes him the league’s highest paid player. Dempsey started his career in the MLS, after he was drafted 8th overall in the 2004 draft by the New England Revolution. Dempsey became the face of US soccer, and eventually left the MLS to play in the English Premier League. After stints with Fulham and Tottenham in England, Dempsey is back in the United States.
On Sunday night the Seattle Sounders were set to host the Portland Timbers, in what would be Dempsey’s home debut. Dempsey’s arrival brought in 67,385 fans to Century Link Field to see the Sounders take on their northwest rivals. The only goal of the game was scored by Eddie Johnson of the Sounders, on a header from a set piece. Although Dempsey remained scoreless with his new club, his impact on Major League Soccer has become very clear.
Sunday’s game drew the second largest crowd in MLS history, only behind a Los Angeles Galaxy match in 1996. Even more impressive is that the crowd of over 67,000 people ranked third in the entire world amongst soccer matches this weekend. This means that an MLS game had a larger crowd than almost all of the English Premier League, Spanish La Liga, and Italian Serie A. For a country where soccer is viewed as the inferior sport compared to football, basketball and baseball, Clint Dempsey’s home debut shows how much soccer is growing in the states. With new soccer specific stadiums, expansion teams, and European players coming to Major League Soccer, the league looks to be growing at an unstoppable rate.