UPDATE: The Guardian is now citing "U.S. sources" as saying that the Dempsey-to-Fulham loan is done. He'll apparently join them in early January and stick around until late February. If that's true, he'll return to the Sounders at least a week before their season-opener.
The Clint Dempsey-loan sweepstakes apparently has a winner: Fulham. After weeks of speculation as to where the Seattle Sounders Designated Player would spend the MLS offseason, there's finally an actual source suggesting that a deal has been finalized. Take this with a grain of salt -- and I'll be the first to admit that I've never previously heard of Zapsportz.com -- but their "exclusive" story quotes West Ham manager Sam Allardyce saying his team lost out on Dempsey.
"He will return to play for Fulham for the two months or so during the close season in MLS. We tried to get him on loan but he chose to go back to his old club instead."
Is this ironclad confirmation? Hardly. How likely is some random site to get a scoop on this? It's possible but there's reason to doubt its authenticity. Those concerns aside, this has the benefit of at least putting a name to a source, whereas previous reports have been little more than speculation.
From a Sounders perspective, this is probably about as good of a result as they could have hoped. Dempsey seemed pretty well set on going on a loan, rather than spending two months resting in a World Cup year. At Fulham, he'd at least be guaranteed to get playing time and will be going into a reasonably familiar setting.
Fulham are currently in the relegation zone, sitting 18th in the English Premier League table. They've scored just 14 goals in 15 matches and are in danger of losing Dimitar Berbatov in the January transfer window (the same time that Dempsey would be able to start playing).
The downside, from the Sounders' perspective, is that Dempsey is going to miss all of training camp. Yes, he should rejoin the team in time for the start of the season on March 8, but he won't have much time to learn how he fits in with a roster that will have quite a few new faces. As a bit of a counter-point, he would have likely missed a couple weeks of preseason anyway if he had stuck around and been part of the United States' "Camp Cupcake."
On a tangentially related note, the Sounders will be playing one fewer game around the World Cup break now that a June 11 game against Chivas USA has been moved to Sept. 3.