The contract that Clint Dempsey got from Seattle Sounders FC and MLS is large. Depending on how you count the dollars, it is either the largest or second largest in MLS history. It dwarfs the third largest no matter how you do the math. There is question as to whether or not it is a rational business decision.
While it may be irrational, making up that money is not impossible. Sounders FC is uniquely positioned to be able to expand capacity and sponsorship revenue in a way that can collect the extra millions (between 6-8 million per year) needed to cover the costs of this pricey contract.
First, let's remind the world that Seattle and the Pacific Time Zone do not prevent marketing. It was not true before the internet, and it certainly is not true now.
Ken Griffey, Jr ran for President of the United States in a mock campaign that got Nike (based in Southern Cascadia) in trouble with the FEC. It was possibly one of the best advertising campaigns ever. Shawn Kemp, the Reign Man, was also a prominent feature in marketing in the '90s.
Marketing from this odd timezone when Easterners sleep during games can be difficult. But difficult is not impossible. In fact, three of the globe's 28 most marketable athletes are based along the Pacific Coast. One is half Seattle and half Portland (Alex Morgan). Two others are based out of LA, but they aren't on the most popular teams in their sport from the Southland. That's Mike Trout and Blake Griffin by the way.
Clint Dempsey is a bit old to make that list, but he is a national star in his sport. He appeals to nationalism due to his suiting up for the United States. Olympic and World Cup stars are generally easier to market than other "better" athletes within the same sport.
Dempsey and Seattle also have strong connections throughout the American soccer influence sector. Marketing a man from a tiny town that returns to his native nation to remake history is fairly simple. The explosion of ticket demand for his first home game is an example. The Pro Shop running out of authentic Large kits is another.
What is often overlooked in the discussion by people outside of Seattle insisting that there is no way to make back this money is that only Sounders FC within MLS can look at the upper deck and dream of seeing tens of thousands there.
A modest five thousand per match average increase would mean that the organization pulls in an extra 1.5 Million in ticket revenue alone. Add in concessions, merchandise and a few games with twenty thousand more fans and the numbers add up quickly. Not only that but the contracts for TV and jersey sponsorship are capable of generating additional revenue as well.
Guessing another business's revenue and profits are extremely difficult, particularly when that business operates within the single entity system of Major League Soccer. But the idea that this signing is purely irrational should be put to rest.
Sounders FC has a chance at making this money and no other team within MLS could even think about it. They have a leadership that has the experience selling story like few in American soccer do, the capacity to host many thousand more fans and are already the 40th most valuable soccer brand in the world.
Just because this would be irrational for the rest of the league does not mean it is irrational here - just difficult.