One of the worst-kept secrets this MLS offseason is now official: Lee Young-Pyo has signed with the Vancouver Whitecaps. The third-most capped player in South Korea's history has played in some of the top leagues in the world, but was playing for Saudi Arabian giants Al-Hilal the last two seasons. A Whitecaps officially said Lee will not count as a Designated Player.
Lee is probably best known for his contributions to three of South Korea's World Cup teams. Lee has earned 127 caps and scored five international goals, but has announced his retirement from the international game.
"I am very thankful for my experiences as a professional soccer player in Asia and Europe and now I look forward to this new opportunity in Vancouver," Lee said in a team release. "Soccer in North America is growing and Major League Soccer has become a highly-respected league in the world game. I am excited to begin this new chapter of my career with Whitecaps FC and to make Vancouver my new home."
At various times in his career, the 34-year-old has been known as one of the top fullbacks in his league. During his prime, he played for PSV Eindhoven (2003-05), Tottenham Hotspur (2005-08) and Borussia Dortmund (2008-09). Lee made nearly 225 appearances with those clubs.
This move is clearly about more than just soccer, though. There is a rather large Asian population in the Vancouver metro area and Lee is among the best known players in South Korean history. His signing will surely pique the interest of thousands otherwise disinterested soccer fans, at the very least.
For more on Lee's signing, be sure to check out Whitecaps blog 86 Forever.