- The Washington Times - Friday, January 5, 2007

The United States continues to make a major impact on English soccer. The most recent evidence: New England Revolution star Clint Dempsey will be joining Fulham (a London team) if he obtains a work permit.

Two of the top-tier teams in the 20-team English Premier League are now owned my Americans, and more than a dozen talented Americans are competing in the Premiership. That would have been unthinkable 10 years ago. Back then, there was little respect for Americans. That’s not the case now.

Last weekend, two Americans scored key goals in major games. DaMarcus Beasley scoring a stunning goal in Manchester City’s 1-0 win at West Ham United, while defender Carlos Bocanegra scored a key goal to earn Fulham a 2-2 tie at champion Chelsea. Three of the English Premier League’s 20 starting goalies are Americans.

Fulham and MLS have agreed to a reported $4 million fee for Dempsey, 23, the only American to score a goal at the World Cup in Germany last summer. If the deal happens, it will be the biggest transfer of a player for MLS, eclipsing the $3.5 million the league received from Nottingham Forest for Stern John in 1999 and $3 million from Manchester United for Tim Howard in 2003.

If he does make the move, Dempsey, who hails from Nacogdoches, Texas, probably will play his first game against West Ham United on Jan. 13.

“We expect him to make a big impact,” Fulham coach Chris Coleman told the Times of London. “He is strong, has good pace and a good touch. He has all the tools in his locker to be a good player in the Premier League.”

Fulham is owned by Egyptian-born businessman Mohamed Al-Fayed, who owns the famous London store Harrods. He purchased Fulham in 1997 when it was in League One, the third division in England’s four-tier system and he had dreams of making it into the “Manchester United of the South.” The team was promoted to the EPL in 2001-02. If Dempsey joins the team he will be teammates with two Americans — Bocanegra and Brian McBride, who has six goals this season. American defender Oguchi Onyewu, who plays for Belgium team Standard Liege, was also a target of Fulham, but the deal fell through Wednesday.

The EPL is now the most watched league in the world, with Americans running two of the league’s biggest teams. After all the hoopla over American Malcolm Glazer and his sons buying Manchester United — reported to be the most valuable franchise in sports — things have settled down nicely for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers’ owner. Glazer’s $1.4 billion asset seems to be doing well. United has expanded its stadium to hold 76,000 and the team currently leads the EPL and has made the knockout stage of the Champions League.

In July, American Randy Lerner (who also owns the Cleveland Browns) took over Birmingham based-club Aston Villa for $126 million. Lerner became a soccer fan when he studied at Cambridge University in 1983. American financiers Polygon were working on a joint $451 million bid to take over Newcastle United before the deal collapsed this week.

Six English Premier League teams are now owned by foreigners and more are on the way. Dubai International Capital, an investment arm of Dubai’s government, is in serious talks this weekend with Liverpool about a possible takeover of the team. The price for Liverpool is estimated to be $900 million. If DIC does take over at Liverpool the team will be backed by the stunningly rich Maktum family, headed by Dubai’s Prime Minister of the United Arab Emirates Mohammed bin Rashid al-Maktoum, who is listed as the worlds’ fifth-richest man. Liverpool would be in a position to challenge EPL champion Chelsea in investing in players. Russian billionaire Roman Abramovich has pumped more than $869 million into Chelsea since 2003 and the team responded by winning the last two titles. Other foreign owners in the league include Alexandre Gaydamak, 30, a French businessman of Russian descent who holds an Israeli passport and became the sole owner of Portsmouth last year and Icelandic businessman Eggert Magnusson, who recently took over London team West Ham United for $175 million.

Notes — David Beckham will hold talks with Real Madrid on a new two-year contract. It has been reported that numerous teams, including some in the MLS, are interested in signing the 31-year-old. But his spokesman, Simon Oliveira, told BBC Sport: “There’s a significant deal on the table from Real. It’s slightly more than he’s currently on.”

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