Former U.S. national team captain and Seattle Sounders striker Clint Dempsey announced his retirement on Wednesday, effective immediately.
In a statement issued by the Sounders, the 35-year-old Dempsey said he believes it’s the right time to call it quits after playing soccer professionally for 15 years.
“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. “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.”
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Dempsey is tied with Landon Donovan as the greatest U.S. goal scorer, scoring 57 international goals in 141 appearances. He captained the U.S. in the 2014 World Cup in Brazil when the Americans reached the knockout stage before losing to Belgium in the round of 16.
Dempsey had a decorated career overseas in England, most notably with Fulham, before returning to MLS in 2013 with the Sounders. His return to Seattle was a major moment for MLS – an American player who had success in England made the decision to return to the league with good years still remaining on his career.
“When Clint arrived in Seattle in 2013, in many ways it was a defining moment for our club,” Sounders owner Adrian Hanauer said. “His signing represented a new era in Major League Soccer, allowing our country’s most accomplished player to return home and drive the game to new heights domestically.”
He missed the second half of the 2016 season with a heart condition that put his career in jeopardy, but he returned to Seattle the next season after being cleared by doctors. Dempsey was the MLS Comeback Player of the Year last season when he again became the leading scorer for the Sounders and reclaimed a place on the U.S. national team.
The Americans fell short in World Cup qualifying, ending Dempsey’s bid to play in a fourth World Cup.
“It’s always kind of a weird thing when you come back from an injury, especially with your heart,” Dempsey told The Associated Press in November. “You’re always listening, feeling at night, thinking about it when you’re training and then making sure you’re having normal beats and stuff like that and checking on it. You just come to a point where you’re not thinking about it as much and that’s when you kind of get over it.”
Dempsey’s role with the Sounders this season has decreased as the year has gone on and Seattle has made roster additions. He had just one goal in 14 games this season for Seattle and had been sidelined with a back injury. Dempsey’s last game was July 25, when he played 11 minutes as a sub against San Jose.
“Clint Dempsey has been one of the most impactful players in the history of the sport in our country. From his early success with the New England Revolution to his achievements both as a top player in the English Premier League and for the U.S. Men’s National Team, Clint showed us that there are no limits for an American player,” MLS commissioner Don Garber said. “His decision to sign with the Sounders in 2013 in the prime of his career sent a message to the global soccer community that MLS was a league on the rise.”