Clint Dempsey retires from U.S. national team and professional soccer

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Clint Dempsey scored one of his 57 international goals to put the USMNT ahead in its 2014 World Cup opener against Ghana. (Getty)
Clint Dempsey scored one of his 57 international goals to put the USMNT ahead in its 2014 World Cup opener against Ghana. (Getty)

United States men’s national team legend Clint Dempsey has announced his retirement from professional soccer after an accolade-filled 14-year career.

Dempsey will hang up his boots at the age of 35 as the joint-top goalscorer in USMNT history and the most prolific American goalscorer in the English Premier League. He was a three-time U.S. Soccer player of the year.

He was also a cult hero, a fan favorite for many reasons, among them his ruthless efficiency in front of goal, his rugged creativity, his toughness, his tenacity, his heart, his unflappable personality, and one unparalleled, eternally GIF-able facial expression during a World Cup qualifier against Jamaica:

“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 U.S. Soccer’s news release. “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 … Y’all have always made me feel at home, and it is something that I will always remember.”

Dempsey, in true Deuce fashion, took to Instagram to commemorate his journey with eight pictures, five words and one emoji:

Thank you it’s been real. ✌️

A post shared by Clint Dempsey (@clint_dempsey) on Aug 29, 2018 at 9:10am PDT

Dempsey’s club career

The kid from Nacogdoches, Texas – who very nearly had to give up the game as a teen because his parents couldn’t fund both his soccer dreams and his older sister’s tennis dreams – spent his entire 14-year club career in two countries, the United States and England.

After three years at Furman University – Dempsey was one of the last true U.S. stars to come through the college system – he was drafted eighth overall by Major League Soccer’s New England Revolution in 2004.

Three impressive MLS seasons later, he made the jump across the pond to Fulham, where he made his name in Europe. He scored 60 goals in all competitions for the Cottagers, including 23 in his sixth season in London. He parlayed the success into a move to Tottenham Hotspur.

Dempsey then returned to the States for his last chapter, with the Seattle Sounders, where he intermittently excelled. He won his first and only MLS Cup with the club in 2016. But he was absent throughout the playoff run, sidelined by an irregular heartbeat that threatened to end his career. Dempsey being Dempsey, though, he returned the following season and was named MLS Comeback Player of the Year.

After parts of five seasons in Seattle, he has decided to call an end to the journey.

Dempsey’s USMNT career

Dempsey made 141 appearances in a USMNT shirt between 2004 and 2017. He played at three World Cups, and found the back of the net at all three. He won three CONCACAF Gold Cups. He scored multiple national team goals in every single calendar year between 2005 and 2017.

He played wide; as a support striker; as a lone forward. He played in supplementary and leading roles. Wherever he was on the field, no matter who was around him, more often than not he impacted games.

Dempsey’s most memorable moments

Dempsey scored goals of all kinds. Many were scrappy. But a few stand above the rest. There was this half-volley for Fulham against Stoke:

His most memorable one at club level, though, was his chip against Juventus to help send Fulham through to the Europa League quarterfinals:

At international level, very few moments will ever top his opening-minute strike against Ghana to kickstart the USMNT’s 2014 World Cup campaign:

The last of Dempsey’s 57 international goals was an ingenious free kick to book the U.S. a ticket in the 2015 Gold Cup final:

Dempsey, in all competitions at both international and club level, scored a remarkable 213 goals. He will go down as one of the best American soccer players ever – no caveats or qualifiers necessary.

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Henry Bushnell covers global soccer for Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Question? Comment? Email him at, or follow him on Twitter @HenryBushnell, and on Facebook.

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