VANCOUVER, BC - Vancouver Whitecaps FC announced today that defender Young-Pyo Lee has retired from playing in order to accept a front office role with the club.
Effective immediately, Lee will be deactivated from Vancouver's MLS roster and will begin working in the club's soccer operations department.
"Lee has been an exceptional leader since he joined our squad last season, so we're certainly disappointed to see him hang up his boots," said Whitecaps FC head coach Martin Rennie. "While we'll miss him on the field, we're really excited that he has accepted this internship with the club. I know that with the same hard work and dedication he showed during his playing days he will make a big impact."
In his new role, Lee will be reponsible for booking team flights, arranging away team meals, and ensuring player curfews are met.
In just over one season in Vancouver, Lee, 35, started all 38 of his MLS appearances - missing only a single match - and playing every minute. During that time, the Korean legend scored one goal and recorded four assists with Whitecaps FC and was voted the club's 2012 Player of the Year.
A former Republic of Korea (South Korea) international, Lee sits third on his country’s all-time international appearance list after earning 127 caps between June 1999 and January 2011. This included appearances in three FIFA World Cup tournaments (2002, 2006, and 2010), with Lee playing a prominent role in the Taeguk Warriors’ memorable run to the semifinals of the 2002 World Cup, which they co-hosted with Far East rivals Japan. The native of Hongcheon-gun, South Korea, also appeared in the 2001 FIFA Confederations Cup in his home country and three Asian Football Confederation (AFC) Asian Cup tournaments (2000, 2004, and 2011). Lee’s international appearances also include two matches against Canada in the 2000 and 2002 CONCACAF Gold Cup when South Korea participated in the tournament as a guest nation. As a member of South Korea’s U-23 Olympic squad, the defender appeared at the 2000 Sydney Olympics.
Prior to coming to Vancouver, Lee enjoyed a long and successful career in both Asia and Europe, having started 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. In total, the fullback scored three goals in 97 appearances with Anyang LG Cheetahs.
Following the 2002 FIFA World Cup, Lee made the move to Europe when he re-united with former South Korean national team head coach Guus Hiddink at Dutch giants PSV Eindhoven. During his time in the Netherlands, the defender helped PSV to two Dutch Eredivisie titles and an eighth Dutch Cup title (2004-05). It was also in the 2004-05 season that YP Lee and PSV reached the semifinals of the UEFA Champions League. In just over three seasons with PSV, Lee made a total of 109 appearances and scored one goal.
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 with the club (2007-08). In the summer of 2008, the fullback joined German Bundesliga giants Borussia Dortmund, where he made 22 appearances during the 2008-09 campaign.
In the summer of 2009, the veteran defender moved to the Middle East when he joined Saudi Arabian giants Al-Hilal. He had two successful seasons with the Riyadh-based outfit, as Al-Hilal won two consecutive Saudi Professional League and Saudi Crown Prince Cup titles. Lee also appeared for Al-Hilal in the Asian Football Confederation (AFC) Champions League (2009-10 and 2010-11). Lee made 64 appearances and scored one goal with Al-Hilal.
"It has been a great honour to play in Vancouver, but now I am excited to begin the next chapter in my career as I enter this internship in the front office," said Lee in a statement. "I would like to thank everyone at the club who has supported me and helped me with this decision, and to the fans I would like to say, April Fools!"