Looking Closer at Dempsey

big-seattleFrom the Wells Fargo deal, to the change in ownership in Columbus , to the expansion of expansion, to the Clint Dempsey signing, the past few days have been among the most important business days in league history.  Yet the Dempsey deal sits above the rest because of its visibility and general appeal (it is hard to argue that the inking of a long term deal with Wells Fargo doesn’t move all soccer fans).

Grant Wahl provided some great details about the Dempsey signing in his recent article for CNNsi.com.  According to Wahl, the league was a big player in paying the transfer to Tottenham and at one point offered to pay $10 million of a total $30 million offer to player and team.  According the Wahl article, he transfer fee for Tottenham would end up being $9 million, and Dempsey’s three-and-a-half year playing contract with Seattle would end up paying him a total of $24 million — or $6.86 million per year, breaking David Beckham’s MLS record salary of $6.5 million. (Keep in mind that Beckham also earned a percentage of ticket and jersey sales.)”

There is no doubt that the deal was a publicity boon for MLS.  Local and national outlets covered the story over multiple days.  ESPN featured the story through multiple venues, beaming the transfer tale into millions of homes.  Internationally the story also generated attention, as Dempsey is a recognizable name to fans of the game around the world.

There has also been some buzz that the deal will favorably impact negotiations on the next MLS television deal.  It seems unlikely that on signing will move the needle on a television deal (however prominent Dempsey is, he doesn’t have Beckham’s global appeal), but if such signings are a sign of the league’s future intentions with respect to player transfers, the league may generate sufficient buzz to significantly increase offers for rights fees.

Regardless, it is hard to argue that Dempsey will have some more immediate business impacts.  MLS has long sought to capture American soccer fans who focus on the EPL and USMNT but ignore the domestic league.  There are a number of nationally televised games involving the Sounders in the coming weeks; it will be interesting to see if Dempsey increases the ratings.