You could argue that tonight will be one of the most significant nights for club soccer teams on American soil in years, for four different reasons:
One. Clint Dempsey is set to be unveiled as a Seattle Sounders player at 10:15pm ET in front of a sell-out crowd at CenturyLink Field. World Soccer Talk will be bringing you a live stream of the special presentation beginning at 10pm ET tonight.
Two. At 7pm ET, the New York Cosmos will play their first competitive match in twenty-nine years when they host the Fort Lauderdale Strikers at Hofstra University. The Cosmos have filled the soccer headlines in the New York area the last few days, including lighting up the Empire State Building and closing the New York Stock Exchange yesterday.
Three. At 8pm ET tonight, for the first time in US history, two European teams will be broadcasted live on free-to-air television in primetime in the United States when Real Madrid plays Everton in the International Champions Cup. The match will be shown live on FOX network, not FOX Soccer. The winner will play in the final of the International Champions Cup on Wednesday in Miami between the winner of tomorrow’s match between Chelsea-Milan from MetLife Stadium in New York City.
Four. Juventus plays LA Galaxy tonight at 10:30pm ET from historic Dodger Stadium in Los Angeles, California. In the United States, the match will be shown live on FOX Soccer.
The Cosmos story, while massive, is not the biggest today in American soccer. Across the country, almost 3,000 miles away the Seattle Sounders FC are poised to unveil Clint Dempsey as a “designated-player” signing. This represents the biggest signing Major League Soccer has made since David Beckham put pen to paper with the LA Galaxy in January 2007.
Dempsey had a stop-start season last year with Spurs but his willingness to forgo the Premier League where he has played the last six and a half seasons for Seattle speaks volumes as to the progression of MLS. When Dempsey left MLS, he showed desire bordering on petulance to force a move to what he felt was a “higher level” of football.
Today, in 2013 having just been named United States Captain he is willing to forgo that perceived “higher level” to be brand ambassador in the states while preparing for the 2014 World Cup. It is also highly significant that MLS is willing to break its own salary record for an American player. For years, the league has been less willing to pay American players fair market salaries as compared to their foreign counterparts who move to MLS.
Seattle is a big part of the storyline here. In early 2007, when Dempsey left MLS for England they were still toiling in the second division of American soccer despite having a greater history and greater potential upside than any existing MLS team at the time. Once MLS accepted Seattle as “new” team later in 2007, the league changed for the better. Today, the Sounders not the league-promoted Red Bulls or LA Galaxy stand as America’s signature football club, the team neutrals either love or hate but begrudgingly admire.
The Sounders along with their fellow longtime Pacific Northwest rivals, the Portland Timbers come closest to replicating European football atmospheres in the United States. For Dempsey, the move makes sense as he will continue to play in front of large ruckus crowds and will have be able to count on playing in every match. The issue of artificial turf not withstanding, it’s a win-win-win-win for player, team, league and nation.
As for the Cosmos, they kick off the 2013 NASL Fall Season with great expectations. Facing Fort Lauderdale, the last place side from the Spring Season, who if anything have grown weaker with summer moves is a great place to start. The rivarly between the Strikers and Cosmos was one of the great traditional NASL rivalries and even though the quality of these teams is nowhere near that of their predecessors it will be great to see this series renewed. The match will be shown live tonight in the United States on One World Sports with J.P. Dellecamara and Janusz Michalik on the call.
Division 2 soccer in the United States is critical to the continued growth of the sport as both Seattle and Portland have demonstrated. Without it Clint Dempsey would not be coming home to America so soon in his career.