Summer 2024

Tanner Tessmann chooses MLS over godfather Dabo Swinney at Clemson

FC Dallas defeated the Philadelphia Union 2-0 at home to kick off another MLS regular season last Saturday. Yet possibly the most memorable storyline from the opening game was the MLS debut of 18-year-old FC Dallas midfielder Tanner Tessmann, and the opportunity he turned down to be there.

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Tessmann committed in late 2019 to play football and soccer with the Clemson Tigers, beginning in 2020. Soccer would take priority, but he would also have a chance to practice with the football team and his godfather/longtime family friend, head coach Dabo Swinney, as time allowed. Yet thanks in part to a slew of injuries in the midfield, FC Dallas came calling with an offer for Tessmann to sign a homegrown contract that would keep him with the team through 2022, with team options for 2023 and 2024. He quickly accepted.

When Tessmann said “yes” to a contract with FC Dallas, it meant that, for now, he was saying “no” to a scholarship at Clemson, and no to the man he refers to as “Uncle Bo.”

The chance to don an MLS uniform is something Tessmann has imagined ever since he can remember. He even moved to Texas from his home in Hoover, Ala., at age 14 to have a chance to make that dream a reality. On Saturday, he got his wish. He started and played the full 90 minutes, helped to hold the Union without a goal, and he recorded an assist himself in the first MLS game of his career.

“It was just amazing, just an amazing experience,” Tessmann told The Athletic after the game. “I have to thank God for the opportunity to do that. I had a great time, we got the win and that was the most important thing.”

Tessmann, who has “g2G” (glory 2 God) in his Twitter bio, is the son of P.J. Tessmann, who runs Swinney’s All In Team foundation.

Swinney, also a man of deep faith in Christ, lost a key Clemson recruit in the kicking game. Still, Swinney’s genuine delight in his godson’s success was evident.

“Dadgummit, I should have kept my mouth shut,” Swinney joked at practice earlier this week, adding, “It’s pretty special. [Tessmann has] been working since he was in diapers to be a pro and the culture of soccer is a little different from a lot of these sports. Very few people get the opportunity to go be a pro right out of school.”

Swinney said he, as well as Tessmann’s parents, would still like to see the newest MLS sensation one day return to get his college education, and perhaps even kick with Tigers football team one day. For now, Tessmann is focused on building a long career in professional soccer, the sport he’s loved since he was a child.

“In the end, it was a no-brainer (to choose pro soccer),” Tessmann told The Athletic. “Once we actually negotiated things and got things on the right playing field, it was definitely a ‘yes.’ Like, I had to do this. I had to do this. There’s no way I moved out here when I was 14, all by myself, just to come back and go to college. This is what I’ve been working for, this is why I came out here, this is the next step that I have to take. It’s a great opportunity with a club that really believes in me, that has passion for me, that I have passion for and that I believe is the best place for me to be.”

Tessmann and his FC Dallas teammates play again on Saturday at 3 p.m. at home against the Montreal Impact.

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