Toronto FC president Kevin Payne: For the good of the league, "We didn't pursue Clint Dempsey"

TORONTO – With the possibility that the biggest MLS acquisition of the summer transfer window, Clint Dempsey, could make his Seattle Sounders debut on Saturday, Toronto FC supporters could end up getting their first look at a high-profile player for whom their own club had been rumored to be in the mix (7 pm ET, watch on MLS Live).

While US national team captain Dempsey ultimately ended up a Sounder following his decision to return to Major League Soccer, Sports Illustrated's Grant Wahl reported earlier this week that the former Fulham and Tottenham Hotspur midfielder/forward had initially been interested in playing for LA and Toronto, in addition to Seattle.

Toronto FC president and general manager Kevin Payne admitted on Friday that while he would have liked to have added the veteran attacker to the roster, he also believes Dempsey has probably landed in the right market for the league as a whole.

“We didn’t pursue Clint Dempsey,” Payne said. “Frankly, I think it probably makes more sense for Clint to be at a US team from a marketing perspective. That has to be taken into consideration when you make the kind of investment necessary to get a player of Clint’s caliber.

“Clint is a great player who is really going to help the league and he will really help Seattle,” Payne added. “Certainly, as far his soccer ability, we would have liked to have had him, but it makes a lot more sense for him to be where he is.”

While pragmatic with respect to the business implications of having one of the premier American players in the world playing for a high profile club in the soccer-crazed Pacific Northwest, Payne did concede that there are plenty of interpersonal and historical reasons why Dempsey could have fit in just fine at TFC had that come to fruition.

“Obviously, we’ve all known Clint for a long time,” Payne added. “Ryan Nelsen and Clint have the same agent and they played against each other in England. Clint competed against my teams in D.C. from the time when he was a rookie and [TFC Academy director] Thomas Rongen had him with the U-20 US national team and was really the first guy to give Clint a look at that level.”