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Is Clint Dempsey Putting His Career Second?

U.S. Men’s National Team captain Clint Dempsey’s recent move to the Seattle Sounders of MLS has been met with very mixed reactions. Some are disappointed that one of the U.S.’s top players, if not its top player, is no longer playing in Europe and has seemingly given up on his dream of playing Champions League football. Others are enthusiastic about what the switch means for MLS long-term, and its potential role in helping to improve the quality of the league.

As an Arsenal fan, I’d hoped in the past that he’d make the move to the Emirates, and as a Sporting KC fan, I’m not too happy that he’s now in Seattle. But as a fan of Dempsey himself, I admire his decision to put his family before his career.

As Leander Schaerlaeckens notes, Dempsey has said that “I’ve been busy with my family and really thinking about the decision and trying to make the best decision possible for us.” Schaerlaeckens goes on to say that Dempsey is first and foremost a family man. Basing such a decision not only on his long-term financial security, but also on being able to raise his kids in his home country seems to have played a deciding role in the move. And for that, Dempsey deserves to be applauded.

Many different people can play important roles on many different squads, but only Dempsey can play the role of husband and father in his family. When football stars make the news for gambling on matches, fixing matches, driving while intoxicated, racial abuse, biting, and other more salacious behaviors with the wives of teammates, Deuce’s decision is refreshing.

With the above in mind, Dempsey can continue in his role on the U.S. National Team while playing for Seattle. The MLS is not a career graveyard for American players. Sporting KC’s Graham Zusi and Matt Besler, San Jose’s Chris Wondolowski, Seattle’s Eddie Johnson, and of course Landon Donovan of the L.A. Galaxy have all shown that players can break into the national team or maintain their place on the team while playing in MLS. It would be shocking if Dempsey’s role on the Klinsmann’s team changes.

Fans of MLS may also hope that the move is good for the league, so that instead of being a landing place for players like Thierry Henry and David Beckham in the twilight of their careers, more and more of America’s elite will see MLS as a viable place not only to develop, but also to make one’s mark in world football. While MLS is a ways off from that point, with Dempsey’s return, the league is a significant step closer.