Photos: Spurs soccer legend becomes ambassador as game takes hold in U.S.

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Minnesota Vikings Latavius Murray and Kirk Cousins.
Minnesota Vikings Latavius Murray and Kirk Cousins stand alongside Tottenham Hotspur's Heung-Min Son, Ben Davies and Kyle Walker-Peters during a jersey exchange before the Vikings' practice at the TCO Performance Center in Eagan, Minn., on July 30, 2018.
Lacey Young | MPR News

Ledley King has devoted his life to soccer, joining England's Tottenham Hotspur club at the age of 14.

"It's like home to me," King said. "It is home to me."

Now 37 and retired, he's still a team ambassador for the club, which is in Minneapolis this week to play Italy's AC Milan in the second International Champions Cup game to be played at U.S. Bank Stadium.

Because while this is the land of the Vikings, Tottenham has a huge number of Minnesota fans.

"Last night I was at a supporters club event, and it was a great turnout," he said. "Five hundred, 600 people."

King began his career with Tottenham as a trainee.

"At 18 I was able to make my debut for the first team," he said. "So you know it was quite a quick progression, but I have been at the club for a long time now."

His first goal for Tottenham, in 2000, was a stunner, setting the English Premier League record for quickest goal, just 10 seconds after kick-off.

"To be honest, I am not so proud about the record, well I am not so proud about the goal," he said. "The goal was not, it was not a very good goal. It sounds glamorous, but it was a huge deflection.

"I think it's been 17 years that record's stood. Although one of our players, Christian Eriksen, nearly broke the record this season. I think he was less than a second out from it. I didn't realize I cared about the record till Christian got really close and then I started panicking."

King played for Spurs, as Tottenham is widely known, for 13 years. He also played for England 21 times including in the 2010 World Cup in South Africa.

While he may have that record fast goal, King was known as one of the best defenders of his time. Big-shouldered, very fast and nimble, he was known for a surgical ability to rob opposing strikers of the ball. Now he is teaching those skills to young attendees at trainings linked to the International Champions Cup.

While diehard soccer fans have been predicting an imminent explosion in U.S. soccer interest for decades, it has been the recent arrival of English Premier League games on NBC and its affiliated cable channels which has ignited new interest in what the Brazilians call the beautiful game. The recent World Cup in Russia, which featured several of the players in Tuesday's game also helped. And as Major League Soccer expands, including in Minnesota, King sees the U.S. as having the potential to become a soccer powerhouse.

"There is no reason why the U.S. shouldn't have some of the best players in the world," he said. "You have really talented individuals, great athletes and great discipline. So there is no reason why you shouldn't be able to really compete in soccer at the top level for years to come."

On July 30, the Tottenham Hotspur club met with players from the Minnesota Vikings for a jersey exchange and skills showcase before the NFL team's practice at the TCO Performance Center in Eagan. Check out photos from that event below.

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