EDITOR'S NOTE: Dempsey has indeed signed with MLS and Seattle. We encourage you to follow SounderatHeart.com for more on this story.
If you managed to avoid Twitter, the MLS subreddit, and especially Sounder at Heart over the last 24 hours, you should know about the following sequence:
1) Keith Costigan, Fox Soccer pundits and Chivas USA U-18 coach tweeted: "The club interested in bringing Dempsey back to MLS is Seattle" (set aside the absurdity that it's possible that only one club would be "interested in bringing Dempsey back to MLS")
2) 5 hours later, some guy named Jorge, who was in a San Francisco airport at the time, tweeted "Damn, guess who's on my flight to Seattle? So random. Blurry photo credit to his handler. #Dempsey #Golazo #USMNT", which was accompanied by this photo. 30 minutes later Jorge followed up with, "Well, spoke too soon. He just went to a different gate."
3) Even after that second tweet from Jorge, Sounders fans flocked to the Seattle airport and staked out at every gate that was hosting an incoming flight from San Francisco.
Seattlites started to get excited from the moment Costigan kicked off the rumor, and peaking during the 30 minutes between Jorge's tweets. At that point every Sounders fan freaked out somewhere on the spectrum of "I'd like to think I'm too reasonable to get worked up about this but I can't help it" to some approximation of the loopiness of a Hunter S. Thompson characters suffering from sunstroke and a bad adrenochrome trip. The whole thing is recapped in more detail by MLS' Andy Edwards here, or you could tap into the 2,648 (and counting) comments on the Sounder at Heart posts regarding this subject.
Which brings us to today's development, and the relevance of this story to FC Dallas:
Source close to Dempsey says he's not Seattle-bound, will "probably insist on being closer to home" when/if he returns to MLS.— Doug McIntyre (@DougMacESPN) August 2, 2013
McIntyre is a solid journalist at ESPN, so you can trust that his source here is probably legit. The "when/if" here should prevent a full-scale #DempseyWatch2 freakout on Twitter. For one thing there is the direct implication that Deuce won't be returning to MLS terribly soon. For another the "if" leaves open the possibility that he'll close out his career in Europe anyway. The thought of Dempsey not coming back to the States is probably too depressing for most to hold onto, but it has to be noted once here.
However, if Dempsey returns to MLS and holds to his "closer to home" aim, FC Dallas is clearly in the mix. Clint's home town of Nacogdoches is 183 miles from Dallas, and 142 miles from... Houston. At some point a few years down the line it is quite likely that the Dynamo and FCD will be competing for much more than El Capitan. They will be lobbying for one of the greatest attackers the USA has ever produced and the captain of the national team.
There's also an outside chance that San Antonio (294 miles from Nacogdoches) will have an MLS club by then, but between the likely career arc of an already-30 Dempsey and the uncertainty of the MLS expansion race, let's just say it's a Dallas-Houston contest. Worth noting here that allocation order will be an issue here, as New England did sell Dempsey to Fulham in 2007, so no one in MLS holds his rights. In coming years, it wouldn't be a bad idea for FCD to trade minor assets to move up in the allocation order, just in case.
Dempsey is the type of player, personality, and celebrity that could absolutely change the perception of FC Dallas around both the metroplex and the league. Generally the attendance effects of designated players in MLS is wildly overstated, but I believe that Clint Dempsey playing in this market would be a major difference-maker.
If the Hunts will ever open up the HSG coffers and make a huge investment in one player, they should absolutely do so the moment that Deuce hits the open market. This club has good things going for it already, but one of its biggest needs has always been the perception of importance. In Dallas/Fort Worth, many still think of MLS and FC Dallas as minor league, and the club is often an afterthought to journalists and blogger who cover MLS nationally, too.
Dempsey has the potential to change that upon arrival.
He's not coming this year, though. Even if Tottenham is selling, the transfer fee will be beyond MLS standards, and Dempsey isn't ready to re-cross the pond yet. But that day is likely to be only a few years down the line, and FC Dallas need to lay the groundwork in whatever way they can. HSG needs to find out what Dempsey will likely want in an MLS home and make sure they can offer it. Heck, if a long-term player here can strike up a friendship like Chandler Parsons did with Dwight Howard, great. Whatever it takes should be FC Dallas' motto in terms of Dempsey recruitment.