American Exports: Dempsey back in Europa League

Fulham may have finished in eighth place in the Premier League, but Clint Dempsey & Co. are returning to European play for the second time in three years.

The Cottagers were awarded a spot in the 2011-12 Europa League via UEFA’s Fair Play rankings, which reward three teams from the federation’s top-ranked member leagues based on a formula that rewards sportsmanship both on and off the field.

England’s spot went to Fulham, who were the top-ranked Fair Play team in the EPL that hadn’t already qualified for European competition next season.

That will send Dempsey, who broke the club record with 12 EPL goals this past season, back to the Europa League. He was instrumental in Fulham’s historic run to the final of the 2009-10 edition, in which the Cottagers lost an overtime thriller to Diego Forlán and Atlético Madrid by a score of 2-1.

Fulham would enter next season’s edition of the Europa League in the first qualifying round, which would mark a quick summer turnaround for the US national team star: It’s scheduled to begin on June 30, five days after the CONCACAF Gold Cup final.