Clint Dempsey’s fate is in the hands of Major League Soccer.
That’s the main thing to take away from Friday’s statement on USSoccer.com, and it’s also pretty clear Dempsey faces a ban from future Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup appearances, too.
Dempsey slapped referee Daniel Radford’s book out of his hands during a 3-1 loss to Portland on Tuesday night in the fourth round of the U.S. Open Cup, and then proceeded to tear up the pages of that book.
He earned a red card for that, and then needed to be held back from Radford by players from both teams. It’s the sort of thing that would land a lesser player in loads of trouble, and Major League Soccer’s response to his incident will be an example to players, one way or another.
At this point, the Panel has gathered evidence, including the report of the referee and the Match Commissioner, video of the incident, as is currently conducting interviews with the relevant parties. Any decision made by the Panel on further sanctioning will pertain only to future Open Cup tournament competition.
In addition, per the U.S. Soccer Policy Manual, any incident of alleged Referee Assault or Abuse by a professional player during a Professional League Member activity is governed by the Professional Leagues Policy Against Referee Assault as outlined in Policy 202(1)(H)-2.
In this instance, MLS has jurisdiction and is reviewing the incident as required by U.S. Soccer policy.
Under the policy, should the League suspend the player from competition with his club, the player would not be eligible to compete in any soccer competition while serving that suspension.
That last part is just as tricky as it sounds, as it isn’t entirely clear but reads like a suspension would count for international play. Could an MLS suspension keep Dempsey from this summer’s Gold Cup? Luis Suarez’s bite earned him a four-month ban from both club and country, but that came directly from FIFA.
Simply guessing here, but we think he gets banned from next year’s Open Cup, a month of MLS (whether it includes the time he could miss for Gold Cup is interesting), and perhaps one USMNT game (conveniently up next: a friendly with Guatemala).
MLS needs to tread carefully here. On one hand, Dempsey’s punk move wasn’t going to hurt anyone, but given some of the horrible stories of ref abuse we’ve seen — including the tragic death of referee John Bieniewicz in Michigan — it’s important to keep a no-nonsense standard and protect the official (regardless of your opinion on their work).
How long will he get? What do you think?