Clint Dempsey is the United States’ best-known soccer player, and possibly its best player period—and the U.S. men’s national team might have to play this summer’s high-profile Gold Cup without him after he lost his temper and shredded a referee’s notebook during a contentious club match on Tuesday.
Here’s video of the incident, which took place during a Seattle Sounders-Portland Timbers contest in the U.S. Open Cup tournament (Dempsey is on the Sounders):
Two other Sounders players were red-carded in the team’s 3-1 loss, and another was injured after all Seattle’s allotted substitutions had been taken, so they finished the match with only seven men on the field.
Dempsey’s moment of over-the-top aggravation might merely have made for a few days of viral amusement were it not for one specific line in U.S. Soccer Federation rules, highlighted here by SB Nation’s Blue Testament blog:
That’s pretty straightforward—it would be hard to argue that something taken out of a referee’s hand isn’t his “property”—and given that the USSF runs the U.S. men’s national team, it would seem that Dempsey should miss the Gold Cup, which begins July 7. The organization has not yet made any official statement on Dempsey’s status, but a determination is expected soon.