Vancouver Whitecaps FC defender Young-Pyo Lee set to retire following 2013 MLS season

"It will be the most memorable game in my life."

VANCOUVER, BC – Vancouver Whitecaps FC confirmed today that defender Young-Pyo Lee will retire following the 2013 Major League Soccer (MLS) season.

The South Korean legend will be honoured prior to kickoff this Sunday, October 27, when Whitecaps FC host Colorado Rapids at BC Place. Kickoff is set for 5 p.m. PT – TV: Sportsnet One, RADIO: TEAM 1410, teamradio.caMOBILE: bell.ca/mobiletvONLINE: live.mlssoccer.com.

“It will be the most memorable game in my life,” said Lee. “I’m a happy guy. I learned so many things throughout my career, much more than I had expected when I was young. It is a great time to finish with a great team and great people. I deeply appreciate our fans, my teammates, and all of the staff in the club. I’m sure Vancouver Whitecaps FC will remain in my mind as my team forever.”

YOUNG-PYO LEE CAREER ACCOMPLISHMENTS

  • Three FIFA World Cup appearances (2002, 2006, 2010)
  • Third all-time in appearances for South Korea (127)
  • K-League title (2000) and Korean Super Cup title (2001)
  • Two Dutch Eredivisie titles (2003, 2005) and a Dutch Cup title (2005)
  • UEFA Champions League semifinalist (2004-05)
  • English League Cup title (2008)
  • Two Saudi Professional League and Saudi Crown Prince Cup titles (2010, 2011)
  • 2012 Whitecaps FC BMO Player of the Year

Lee, 36, has played two full seasons with Whitecaps FC after making the move to Vancouver in December 2011. In his first season with the club, Lee started and played the full 90 minutes in all 33 of his MLS appearances, missing just one match, and was named the 2012 Whitecaps FC BMO Player of the Year.

Going into Sunday’s regular season finale, the Korean defender has started 29 of 31 MLS appearances this season and is tied for second on the team with six assists – three of which have come in the last five matches. In total, the veteran right back has a goal and 10 assists in 64 MLS appearances over the last two seasons.

“He’ll go down as a really significant player in the club’s history,” said Whitecaps FC head coach Martin Rennie. “I think that he helped our team become more professional, he helped players learn more about what it means to succeed at this level, and he’s just a really positive role model on and off the field. He is a legend and I think not just because how well he’s done as a player throughout the world but for the kind of person that he is.”

The former South Korean international has enjoyed an illustrious 14-year professional career, which has included three FIFA World Cup appearances, including a memorable run to the semifinals of the 2002 tournament co-hosted by his home country. Lee also appeared in the 2001 FIFA Confederations Cup in Korea, three Asian Football Confederation (AFC) Asian Cup tournaments, and the 2000 Sydney Olympics as a member of South Korea’s U-23 Olympic squad.

The native of Hongcheon-gun, South Korea, retired from international competition in January 2011 and ranks third on his country’s all-time appearance list with 127 caps.

At the club level, Lee enjoyed highly successful stints in the top leagues of the Netherlands, England, and Germany after beginning his professional career with Anyang LG Cheetahs (now FC Seoul) in South Korea’s Professional Football League (K-League). He led the club to a K-League title in 2000 and the Korean Super Cup title in 2001.

During his time in the Netherlands, the defender helped Dutch giants PSV Eindhoven to two Dutch Eredivisie titles and an eighth Dutch Cup title (2004-05). It was also in the 2004-05 season that Lee and PSV reached the semifinals of the UEFA Champions League.

In the summer of 2005, Lee moved to the English Premier League when he joined Tottenham Hotspur FC. In three seasons with the North London outfit, the defender made a total of 93 appearances, with Spurs winning their fourth English League Cup title during his final season (2007-08).

Following a successful tenure with Spurs, the fullback joined German Bundesliga side Borussia Dortmund, where he made 22 appearances during the 2008-09 campaign.

Upon departing Europe, Lee ventured to the Middle East and won consecutive Saudi Professional League and Saudi Crown Prince Cup titles with Saudi Arabian giants Al-Hilal. Lee also appeared for Al-Hilal in the AFC Champions League (2009-10 and 2010-11) while making 64 total appearances and scoring one goal for the club.

“I have been playing soccer for the last 28 years, so I think it’s the time to stop,” said Lee. “It is an emotional time for me, but I’m so happy because when I came here two years ago I never expected to finish my career like this. I’m so happy to retire with a great team and great people. I owe thanks to everybody.”

Whitecaps FC wrap up the 2013 MLS regular season on October 27, when they host the Rapids at BC Place in the back half of their home-and-home series. The final home match of the regular season will also be Fan Appreciation Night. A number of initiatives are planned to thank fans for their continued support. Tickets are still available at whitecapsfc.com/tickets.