Joe Roth

Report: How Dempsey’s move came together, new details on Deuce’s Seattle deal

10 Comments

Over the course of two weeks, Clint Dempsey helped engineer a move to Seattle. There were two other possibilities, but the Sounders  became his preferred destination. Major League Soccer fostered the deal, aid that included paying the entire $9 million transfer fee to Tottenham Hotspur. His 3.5 year contract gives him a base salary that eclipses David Beckham’s.

Thanks to Grant Wahl’s excellent reporting, we now know how Clint Dempsey ended up in Seattle. We also know more of his contract details, with SI.com correcting the length of the deal originally reporting here at ProSoccerTalk. Instead of a four-year contract, Dempsey’s deal is six months shorter, taking him through the 2016 season.

That’s important as if concerns the analysis from Friday. At the time, we discussed Seattle’s $41 million commitment. That’s not the case. It’s actually “only” $24 million, a number reduced by the shorter length of Dempsey’s deal and MLS covering the transfer free.

(Of note: those numbers, reported by SI, are Dempsey’s “base” salary; sources confirm to ProSoccerTalk. Dempsey’s guaranteed annual compensation is $8 million per season, as reported on Friday.)

More from Wahl’s piece, on how the deal started to gain momentum:

MLS commissioner Don Garber sent an e-mail to Seattle’s majority owner, the Hollywood studio chairman Joe Roth. “Call me,” the email read. “It’s important.”

Roth called Garber. “Clint Dempsey is interested in Seattle,” Garber told him. “Are you interested in him?”

At first, Roth thought Garber was playing a practical joke on him. But Garber wasn’t laughing. This was no joke. “Absolutely we’re interested,” Roth told him. “I’ll convince my partners, and you guys do the negotiations.”

Roth had long sought Dempsey, according to SI.com, but didn’t think it was possible. Now that the Spurs attacker was within reach, he wasn’t going to miss out.

Eventually, he agreed to put up 35 percent of the money. Co-owner and general manager Adrian Hanauer put up another 32.5 percent, with the team’s other partners making up the rest.

The deal, which allows Dempsey to go on loan this winter, came together over the All-Star break, leading to last week’s frantic events. Dempsey flew from London to Seattle (via San Francisco) on Thursday. The deal was reported done on Friday. He was introduced to the team’s fans on Saturday, with an official unveiling today at CenturyLink.

According to Don Garber, who spoke to SI.com for Wahl’s piece, the move completes the most-significant acquisition in MLS history:

“This signing ranks right at the very top … We have been going through a process that started almost 10 years ago … That really started with Landon Donovan … Then it kicked to a higher gear with David Beckham …

“You follow from that Thierry Henry and Cuauhtémoc Blanco, who were able to make a difference for us … With Clint, it takes all of this to an even higher level. For the first time we have a world-renowned player who has international experience who’s saying I want to come to Major League Soccer in my prime.”

The piece is worth a read in its entirety, a read that will leave you with a number of lingering questions. One which we’re sure to tackle on this site: How will fans feel about MLS paying the transfer fee for Seattle? That’s something that won’t sit well with many teams in Major League Soccer.

The changing identity of … Seattle Sounders FC

21 Comments

The public face of Clint Dempsey’s transfer saga unfolded so quickly, it may take some time to come to grips with the implications. It’s difficult to imagine a bigger, more realistic transfer target coming to Major League Soccer, and four days ago, you couldn’t even consider Dempsey realistic. After Adrian Hanauer’s coup, we’ll have to get used to expanding our imaginations.

Once we calibrate, there’ll be a whole new way of seeing the Sounders. Instead of this crowd-drawing juggernaut aspiring to see its competitive goals match off-field success, a new perception will see Seattle as keepers of a war chest capable of eclipsing any in Major League Soccer. Like it or not, that’s often how fans characterize teams. The LA Galaxy are big-spending haves. The New York Red Bulls are big-spending haves. Now, Seattle Sounders are part of that axis of evil.

As Sounders supporters might chant, “no one likes us, we don’t care,” an irreverence that meets a new reality after Saturday truly made them the envy of Major League Soccer. Whether you like Dempsey as a player, whether you like the idea of committing such a large sum to one talent, Seattle did it. They became the first team to reach into Europe and pay a significant fee for a indisputably desirable target. Is Dempsey huge, worldwide headlines big? No, but these are exactly the type of acquisitions MLS fans have wanted since Day 0.

[MORE: The changing identity of … Major League Soccer]

For much of MLS’s history, those expectations have had to be tempered. Not so in Seattle. Now, those consistent 38,000-plus crowds have a new context. Now the backing of people like Joe Roth, Paul Allen, and Drew Carey has potential as well as prestige. For the first time, Seattle has shown hints of realizing the potential written in their DNA. They can indeed be Galaxy north.

With potential becomes expectation. Even though they currently sit in seventh, missing the playoffs is not an option. Once there, the type of collapses Seattle’s recently suffered in Sandy and Carson won’t be acceptable. Though sports history is littered with talented teams that lost for reasonable reasons, the Sounders will be expected to perform to a reasonable, high, championship-level. If they don’t succeed in bringing a title, they better force another team to o something exception.

For a fanbase that defined its team by trophies based on U.S. Open Cup success, silverware will be a priority, especially since the huge commitment of that fan base is what made this move financially possible. More U.S. Open Cups, please, but also Supporters Shields, MLS Cups, and start really competing for CONCACAF Champions League. If not now, at least acknowledge the club is now on that road. Seattle’s scope changed the second Dempsey unzipped his grey hoody.

Much of Major League Soccer, still toiling on the edge of profitability, hamstrung by the realities of a league still in its adolescence, won’t be happy about that. Reasonably (and admittedly), there’ll be envy. That, however, is the new identity of the Sounders, which means if MLS is truly in an adolescence, Seattle’s become the kid drives its BMW to high school, seamlessly aces all the AP classes, and dates the girl you want to ask to prom. And you’re not sure whether you hate them or want to be them.

These are your new Seattle Sounders.

We’ll soon find out what the Sounders are worth

8 Comments

The Seattle Sounders are hands down — sorry Portland and everywhere else — the success story of Major League Soccer as a young league. They lead the league in attendance and in-stadium passion (if, perhaps, not passion per person).

And they had one of the first major jersey sponsors (xBox), which leads us inextricably to today’s topic: The deal runs out at the end of the 2013 season, and majority owner Joe Roth doesn’t sound too optimistic about resigning with the Microsoft. In fact, he sounds downright negative about the prospect.

A block quote to get us started:

“They’ve just had a very unimaginative conversation over the course of the past year. They see things differently than we do. …They’ve been great partners, and I wish they’d stay on. I wish they would see it the same way that we do… If it was close, we would have caved like an accordion. I came to believe after a long series of negotiations that they weren’t interested.”

And that’s fine. xBox is allowed to make business decisions, as are the Sounders. But it will be interesting to see how much the club can command on the open market. The Galaxy lead MLS at $4.4 million per season. The Sounders will be looking to get more than that for their shirts.

And here’s hoping they do so because this is more than just a Sounders issue. The relative success or failure of Seattle to sign a new sponsor for multiple millions will be felt league-wide. Television ratings are improving, but not quickly enough to drive huge new deals with the networks. One way to make up for that lack of cash is to sign jersey sponsors for increasing amounts of money. (It’s a drop in the bucket compared to a massive television contract, but a $5 million-plus-sized drop ain’t too shabby, you know?)

The bottom line: Other teams will be watching the Sounders closely to see how the negotiations go, hoping for dollar signs and lots of them.