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Where does Clint Dempsey’s signing rank in MLS Designated Player history?

Aug 3, 2013, 2:54 PM EDT

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Clint Dempsey’s transfer to the Seattle Sounders will be announced tonight before the game with FC Dallas.

With Deuce reportedly getting a Designated Player contract, after the Sounders maneuvered this week to open up another DP spot, big money is being splashed up in the Emerald City.

Many are still scratching their heads as to how quickly all this happened, but Dempsey has been signed by MLS and he will be unveiled as a Seattle Sounder later this evening.

That’s a fact.

Here’s something we can debate. Since the Designated Player rule was introduced to Major League Soccer in 2007, there have obviously been some marquee signings that stand out above the rest.

(MORE: Confirmed, Clint Dempsey to sign with Seattle Sounders FC)

But where does Dempsey fit in among the top 10 most influential DPs in MLS’ history?

First, let’s look at the 10 DPs who’ve been huge success stories in MLS… then we’ll get to Dempsey.

1. David Beckham

The man who truly kick-started the modern MLS era we live in. The DP rule was created so LA could pay his huge wages outside of the cap. An innovator who brought much more than stunning goals and sumptuous set pieces to MLS. A pioneer whose arrival is, and will always be, a major part in MLS’ history.

2. Thierry Henry

Arriving a few years after Beckham, Henry almost had the same effect. He’s stardom was still in full swing after excelling at Arsenal and FC Barcelona. He switched the Nou Camp for Red Bull Arena around much fanfare and has captained New York with his mercurial talents. A few flashpoints here and there, but he has been a lynchpin in MLS’ growth and has scored some stunning goals. Just needs an MLS Cup to cap it off.

3. Landon Donovan

When most people across the globe mention MLS, the first player after Beckham that pops into their mind is Donovan. The LA Galaxy star has won five MLS Cups with LA and San Jose and his goals, creativity and All-Star status in 13 consecutive years says it all. A true great of American soccer and someone who has given so much back to the league and soccer fans in the USA.

4. Guillermo Barros Schelotto

The Argentinian genius may have not been the biggest name to grace the DP slot. But boy, could he play. Inspiring the Columbus Crew to the 2008 MLS Cup, Schelotto was the league’s MVP and carved out so many chances for the Crew’s attack. A wizard on the ball and a true competitor on the pitch, he epitomized Columbus’ great team that won the Supporters’ Shield in ’08 and ’09.

5. Robbie Keane

Two MLS Cups in his first two seasons in MLS… Keane’s impact has been sensational. The 33-year-old forward brings all his attacking nous and clever runs to LA and has captained the side to success as first Beckham, then Donovan, left LA. Keane has scored 27 goals in 46 games for LA and he shows no sign of slowing down.

6. Fredy Montero

The Colombian scored goals by the bucket load for Seattle but despite regular season success, a deep run in the playoffs alluded the Emerald City side. Montero is of course still a Seattle player, but is out on loan at Sporting Lisbon. If he ever returns he will be treated like a hero after the fantastic long-range goals and his numerous energetic displays in the Rave Green.

7. Javier Morales

This man was the heart and soul of the Real Salt Lake side that won MLS Cup ’09. Jason Kreis built RSL around Morales’ talents and even today the Argentinian magician can change a game in an instance. That horrible injury suffered after a tackle with Marcos Mondaini has slowed him down, but Morales’s impact on RSL and MLS has been incredible.

8. Juan Pablo Angel

Goals, goals, goals. When he first arrived at the New York Red Bulls from Aston Villa, Angel instantly became a legend in the Big Apple. After four stellar seasons in New York with goals galore, Angel moved onto LA and then Chivas USA with varying degrees of success. But the Colombian forward grabbed 62 goals in 113 games in MLS. A true poacher who was loved by the fans.

9. Alvaro Saborio

Again, another player who just loves to score. The Costa Rican international is currently one of the deadliest forwards in MLS and can frighten the life out of most defenses with his combination of pace and power and supreme finishing ability. Saborio, 31, arrived in 2007 and has scored 44 goals in 87 games for RSL since. Stunning.

10. Cuauhtémoc Blanco

In terms of his play on the field, Blanco was up and down like a yo-yo. But the Mexican international brought a certain star quality to Chicago. His skills and goals were a sight to behold, but unfortunately he couldn’t bring an MLS Cup to the Fire and the team didn’t excel when he was around. And to go along with his great talent on the pitch, Blanco was a huge success at helping supporter numbers grow in Chicago. The Mexican star entertained and Hispanic fans turned their attention to MLS when he arrived.

Where does Clint fit in?

If Dempsey comes in and the Sounders win MLS Cup this year, more from Steve Davis on that later, then Deuce instantly jumps into the top five DPs all-time in MLS. But regardless of whether or not he helps bring a championship to CenturyLink, Dempsey’s arrival will be huge in terms of viewer numbers and raising the profile of the domestic league. To have the USMNT’s captain spearheading the league’s best supported franchise is massive.

Should Dempsey recreate the form he has shown for the USA, Fulham and New England in the past, he could edge into the top three and rival Beckham as the most important DP in the league’s history. His signing is about much more than talent. It could spark a seismic shift of US national team players moving form Europe to MLS. Maybe, just maybe, we’ll see that over the coming years. Time to get to work on overtaking those legendary MLS DPs, Clint.

More: Why Clint Dempsey’s move to Seattle won’t affect the US national team

More: Official, Tottenham confirm sale of Clint Dempsey to MLS

More: Confirmed, Clint Dempsey to sign with Seattle Sounders FC

More: Dempsey to Seattle in $9 million move, plus $8 million salary

  1. hildezero - Aug 3, 2013 at 3:43 PM

    This signing is the best MLS signing since Thierry Henry, so he would be third. As far as excitement goes, then it’s second right behind Beckham. Social media has helped a lot of the attention of this signing.

  2. soccerjohn - Aug 3, 2013 at 4:17 PM

    In terms of impact, it’d be hard for Dempsey to overtake Keane. Henry probably was a bigger get when he was signed, but hasn’t been overwhelming on the field. Beckham’s contribution is leagues beyond the others, and beyond what Dempsey can accomplish. Dempsey might match his on-field influence, but won’t come close to matching the off-field influence.

    Still, this is huge for MLS. I’m a marginal fan (largely because of the crummy officiating) but when a team can offer an environment like Seattle does and players like Dempsey recognize it by choosing to join, it sets a standard that every other team will strive to match. This feels like a big day for US soccer and I love it.

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