Career years: 2004-Present
Clubs: New England Revolution, Fulham, Tottenham Hotspur, Seattle Sounders
Accolades: 3x U.S. Soccer Athlete of the Year, 2004 MLS Rookie of the Year Award, 2x Fulham Player of the Season, 2x MLS Best XI
Clint Dempsey's soccer upbringing was far less prestigious than many of his contemporaries. While the best American soccer players are whisked away at an early age to train and develop in youth academies, Dempsey played at Furman University, and had his first taste of professional soccer through the MLS SuperDraft. His unpredictable, swashbuckling, erratic playing style seems befitting of his career arc—it's full of uncertainty, but things have a way of working out for him.
After scoring 26 goals across three seasons for the New England Revolution, Fulham paid $4 million—an American transfer record at the time—for his services. At Fulham, Dempsey slowly, but surely, became one of England's most prolific attacking midfielders. Handed a full-time striker role at the end of his Fulham career, he enjoyed a 23-goal season for them in 2011-2012, scoring three goals in their remarkable Europa League run.
Dempsey's returned to the MLS after seven years playing in the English Premier League—a curious choice, as he could start for any number of Champions League sides—but one that undoubtedly helps to raise the profile of the MLS. The most successful American player in Europe in recent history, Dempsey's star should only continue to ascend, even if he has returned home.