USA International Clint Dempsey made a surprise appearance at Seattle’s THE NINETY for the FIFA Interactive World Cup 2016 Host Country Qualifier. After watching Brian Jaldin win the event, and with it the last qualification seat for the Grand Final of the world’s largest gaming tournament which takes place from 20-22 March, sat down with the three-time FIFA World Cup™ competitor for an exclusive interview about attending the Seattle event, his performance on the virtual pitch and handling the pressure come tournament time. Clint, thanks for taking a moment here in Seattle to talk to us. You play FIFA right? How old were you when you started playing?
Clint Dempsey: Yes! Currently I don't have the opportunity to play that much, but growing up, for sure. When I went professional, being away from home, I had a lot of downtime. FIFA was a great way to pass the time and have some fun.

What do you think of your virtual-self in FIFA 16. Does he live up to your standards?
He’s cool. I remember back when you’d have to create your own player and your own image. The first time I was included in the game and played as myself was was a bit depressing to see my stats though, so I tried try to work harder, to make sure I performed better on the field, so that when I play as myself in the game that I’d be doing better!

Do you ever play against your children? 
It is especially cool to be able to play FIFA with my kids. When your kids get to see you in the game, that's pretty awesome.

Did you enjoy the Seattle event? Is it what you were expecting from a gaming tournament?
It’s crazy when you start to realise how much work the players put into the game and how long it has taken them to get to the level they are at. You can see that they are really excited about it. I think virtual football is just another way to express your passion for the game. We all love the game, whether you are playing on the console, you are playing in the streets or playing professionaly. It was pretty cool to be a part of this experience.

All our virtual players talk about how important the mental preparation is for the Grand Final tournament. How much of your preparation and success at a major football tournament relies on your mental preparation and strength?
I think it is very important to not stress yourself out to much before the game and to be confident. You know that you put the work in; you should be confident in that and not try to stress too much about what could happen. Make sure you sleep well, you eat well. I have a cup of coffee before a match to wake up and get ready.

If you could give your American champion one piece of football advice for their virtual world cup next month, what would it be?
Continue doing what you are doing. Obviously, you put yourself in a position to go to the tournament because you are doing the right things. Stay focused, stay hungry.

The FIWC 2016 Grand Final will be streamed live from New York on 21 and 22 March 2016. Find out everything you need to know about the Grand Final.