Clint Dempsey, one of the greatest and most unique players in U.S. Soccer history, has announced his retirement, effectively immediately.
Dempsey, 35, began his career with the New England Revolution before bolting in 2006 for England, where he starred at Fulham and Tottenham. He returned to MLS in sensational fashion with the Seattle Sounders in 2013 and helped the club reach two MLS Cup finals. He retires tied with Landon Donovan for the most goals in U.S. men's national team history, coming inches from breaking it–and effectively sending the U.S. to the World Cup in the process–on the fateful October 2017 night at Trinidad & Tobago that sealed the USA's exclusion from the 2018 World Cup. That match was the last of his 141 caps, which rank third all-time for the USMNT. His 21 assists are fourth on the all-time USMNT list.
"After a lot of thought, my family and I have decided that this is the right time for me to step away from the game," Dempsey said in a statement. "I'd like to thank all of the teammates, coaches and support staff that I've worked with throughout my career. It has always been my dream to make it as a pro. I'm grateful to have been on this ride. I would like to thank all of the fans who have supported me throughout my career with the New England Revolution, Fulham, Tottenham, Seattle Sounders and the U.S. men's national team. Y'all have always made me feel at home, and it is something that I will always remember."
"Deuce," as Dempsey was nicknamed, featured in three World Cups–2006, 2010 and 2014–scoring in all three and becoming the first U.S. men's player to tally in three World Cups. As captain under Jurgen Klinsmann, his goal 30 seconds into the USA's 2014 opener against Ghana was one of his career highlights and set the stage for a run to the knockout round. He also won three Gold Cups and scored three goals in the 2009 FIFA Confederations Cup, which helped lead the U.S. to the final vs. Brazil.
The Nacogdoches, Texas, native finishes his two stints in MLS with 72 goals and 42 assists in 186 games. He also tallied 57 goals during his time in the Premier League, which are by far the most for an American.
One of his most famous highlights came in a Fulham shirt, against Juventus in the 2009-2010 Europa League. His stunning chip helped send Fulham through, where it reached the final before eventually falling to Atletico Madrid. The goal was quintessential Dempsey–the willingness to try something bold where others likely would take the more conventional route.
"As far as I’m concerned, Clint Dempsey is the greatest player in the history of our country,” Sounders general manager and president of soccer Garth Lagerwey said in a statement. “His mark on both our club and the United States men’s national team is indelible, and his hard-earned reputation as a trailblazer for our nation in Europe helped pave the way for generations of future of Americans abroad."
Dempsey's playing career was nearly cut short in 2016, when he was sidelined with an irregular heartbeat condition. He was forced to sit out the Sounders' run to the MLS Cup title but returned the following season, where the club made another run to the final.