Nacogdoches, Texas might be the last place you’d expect to find a professional soccer player, yet the small town in a football and baseball crazy state is home to US Men’s Soccer Team captain, Clint Dempsey.

“It’s not always easy to make it in a sport that your city doesn’t really recognize as being important,” Dempsey told Kevin Flynn and former USMNT defender Jimmy Conrad on SiriusXM FC’s Over the Ball. “For me, I had to travel to Dallas [163 miles apart] to try and get on a good club team that would allow me to play in college showcases so I could get a college scholarship. That was really my main goal.”

After playing at Furham University, Dempsey was drafted by the New England Revolution in the 2004 MLS Draft.

“I was blessed to have that opportunity to go pro in MLS. Without the league being here in the states, who’s to say what I would’ve done in my career. I owe a lot to them and I owe a lot to [former USMNT head coach and current L.A. Galaxy head coach] Bruce Arena for picking me for that 2006 World Cup and giving me the opportunity to score a goal in that competition. When I was a young kid, that’s what I dreamed about. It was definitely a different route than most people take, but it worked out for me.”

It’s worked out for multiple clubs in the U.S. and England. After two years in MLS, Dempsey made a move to Fulham in the English Premier League. He scored 50 total in 184 appearances for the club. He then played for Tottenham before coming back home to MLS and the Seattle Sounders FC last season.

“Helping to grow the state of the game in the States is important, and also giving back to the league that gave us an opportunity to become professionals in the first place.”

That “us” Dempsey was referring to is he and Michael Bradley — who recently returned to MLS himself to Toronto FC — two of the most important field players for the USA.

“I’m excited about the challenge and the quality of players coming back and coming back when they still have a lot of good soccer left in them,” Dempsey said. Both he and Bradley included.

The US Soccer star didn’t return to MLS because he couldn’t cut it in Europe. In fact, he’s already back in the Premier League on loan with Fulham until March trying to help the club remain above the relegation zone.

“During my off-season, instead of staying home, I chose to do more and try to improve and get back to top fitness so that when I do come back for the [MLS] season, I’ll be ready going into a World Cup year.”

Ah, yes. The World Cup. It’s just over four months away and the USA is preparing to play against Germany, Portugal, and Ghana in the most difficult group in the entire tournament.

“You have to prepare for those games because these are games you need to get points from [even though he’s focused on Fulham and Seattle at the moment],” Dempsey admitted.

As the captain of the national team and one of the faces of the domestic league, he’s used to dealing with pressure.

“Expectations are always high, but you always put high expectations on yourself anyway. That’s the only way you ever get anywhere.”

They say everything is bigger in Texas. Thanks to Dempsey, you can put American confidence on that list, even in soccer.

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