The Seattle Sounders officially announced the addition of American star Clint Dempsey in dramatic fashion Saturday night at CenturyLink Field.
The Sounders revealed their new midfielder to their fans in a presentation before Saturday's game against FC Dallas. After a video montage, Dempsey stood on the pitch and removed a sweatshirt to reveal a No. 2 Sounders jersey.
"Seattle, I just want to thank y'all and the Seattle Sounders organization for making me feel so welcome and at home," Dempsey said with a Texas drawl.
"I look forward to getting on the field and playing in front of some of the best fans in the world," he continued. "I think we'll accomplish some great things here."
Tottenham Hotspur of the English Premier League had announced Dempsey's exit to an unnamed MLS team earlier Saturday.
"We have reached agreement with Major League Soccer for the transfer of Clint Dempsey," Tottenham's statement said. "We wish Clint every success for the future."
The Sounders went on to beat FC Dallas 3-0. Dempsey, 30, will debut Aug. 10 in Toronto, according to MLSsoccer.com. Seattle's next home game is not until Aug. 25 against the rival Portland Timbers.
The Sounders will pay Spurs an MLS-record $9 million transfer fee to acquire Dempsey’s rights, according to an NBC Sports report. Dempsey's reported base salary of $32 million over four years would also be the largest sum in MLS history.
MLS did not reveal financial details of the transfer.
Seattle announced Thursday afternoon that it had signed veteran midfielder Shalrie Joseph to a new contract, a move that opened up a designated player spot by restructuring Joseph's existing deal. That gave the Sounders the flexibility to add another high-earning star to complement current designated players Obafemi Martins and Mauro Rosales. MLS limits its clubs to a maximum of three DPs each.
As a designated player, Dempsey did not have to go through the league's allocation process because the New England Revolution, Dempsey's last MLS club before his move to England in 2006, received money in his sale to Fulham.
The move is shocking on several fronts. For one, the 2014 World Cup is less than a year away, and Dempsey has consistently spoken of his desire to play at the highest level possible. He's also been noncommittal in the past about potentially returning to MLS, where he played with the New England Revolution from 2004-06 before being sold to Fulham in January of 2007.
But the Sounders have proven to be among the league's most ambitious clubs, and they are also one of the wealthiest, thanks in part to the MLS-high 40,000-plus fans who attend each home game.
"I was a little bit surprised about it, sure. Because it is an interesting step career wise at a point in time where you would kind of maybe question that," former U.S. national team goalkeeper and current Sounders TV analyst Kasey Keller said before Saturday's announcement. "But when you look more at the details and who is involved and what we're talking about financially it all kind of comes into place."
Dempsey moved from Fulham to Spurs a year ago for a fee of $9.6 million, and scored seven Premier League goals in 29 games in 2012-13, including two in two matches against eventual champion Manchester United. He added five more goals in other competitions.
The move to Seattle will reunite Dempsey with fellow American forward Eddie Johnson, with whom Dempsey played at Fulham from 2008-2011.
"I'm good friends with Eddie Johnson, and he always tells me what it's like playing here, playing in front of the fans, just how it's an atmosphere that's comparable to what it is in Europe," Dempsey said after the United States' win over Panama at CenturyLink Field on June 11.
"It's great to see that the game is building and that there are markets like this where people have passion for the game. I almost felt like I was in another country the other day when the Seattle Sounders game was on."
Dempsey has made 99 appearances for the U.S., which he represented at the 2006 and 2010 World Cups. His 35 international strikes rank second on the Americans' all-time scoring chart.
Outside of CenturyLink Field on Saturday, fans were already buzzing about Dempsey's arrival prior to the official announcement. At retailers around the stadium, custom Sounders jerseys with "Dempsey" across the back and No. 2 were being printed with regularity all afternoon in both versions of Seattle's jersey.
During the pregame march near the stadium, fans chanted "Deuce upside the head, I said Deuce upside the head," and carried head shots of Dempsey attached to sticks.
"Major League Soccer is thrilled to have Clint Dempsey, arguably one of the best players the United States has ever produced, return to the league to play for the Sounders," MLS Commissioner Don Garber said in a statement. "Clint could have played in any league throughout the world, and he chose MLS and the Sounders. Our vision is to become one of the best leagues in the world, and we look forward to Clint being a part of that legacy."
Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.