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American striker Clint Dempsey sustained moderate damage to a ligament in his right knee during a game for Fulham against Blackburn on Jan. 17. ((Phil Cole/Getty Images))

American soccer fans can breathe easy — Clint Dempsey's chances of playing in this year's World Cup just received a big boost.

Dempsey, an American striker who plays in the English Premier League with London-based club Fulham, likely won’t require surgery on his injured right knee, and is expected to return to action by the end of the season.

In a statement published on its official website, Fulham said Dempsey underwent a scan and that "early indications are positive in that no operation is required." The club also said that "at this stage it is thought that the injury will not prevent him from featuring" for the team prior to the end of the Premier League campaign in May.

That's good news not only for Fulham but also the U.S. national side, as if this early prognosis holds true, Dempsey should be available to play for his country at the World Cup in South Africa in June.

Dempsey, 26, sustained moderate damage to a ligament in his right knee during a game for Fulham against Blackburn on Jan. 17 and the original thought was that the injury could prevent him from competing at the World Cup.

The potential loss of Dempsey, a national team veteran with 59 appearances and 17 goals for his country in international play, would have been a devastating blow for a U.S. team bedevilled by injuries.

The U.S. team is expected to be missing forward Charlie Davies in South Africa because of injuries sustained in a car crash last October, while defender Oguchi Onyewu is sidelined until spring following knee surgery.

The U.S. begins its World Cup campaign in South Africa against England on June 12. It meets Slovenia six days later and finishes up the first round with a match against Algeria on June 23.

"The news about Clint's injury is positive, especially given the fact that he will not require surgery," U.S. head coach Bob Bradley said in statement. "We are confident that Clint will be ready to be an important part of our team during the World Cup."