Regarded as a soccer legend in his native Republic of Korea (South Korea), Young-Pyo Lee joined Whitecaps FC on Dec. 6, 2011, following a highly distinguished club and international career that included appearances at three FIFA World Cup tournaments for his country. A speedy and skilful fullback that can play on either the right or left flank, Lee comes to Major League Soccer following spells in Saudi Arabia, Germany, England, Netherlands, and his native South Korea.
MAJOR LEAGUE SOCCER 2012:Lee had a fine first season in MLS, with Whitecaps FC supporters voting the defender as the club’s Player of the Year. He made his MLS debut for Whitecaps FC during a 2-0 home win over Canadian arch-rivals and league expansion club Montreal Impact on Mar. 10. He then registered his first MLS point when he assisted on Camilo Sanvezzo’s winning goal during Whitecaps FC’s first-ever victory over FC Dallas, as they claimed a 1-0 home win on Apr. 21. His performance versus FC Dallas earned him a spot in the MLS Team of the Week for Week Seven. Lee then scored his first MLS goal on Apr. 28, as Whitecaps FC earned a 1-0 away win over Columbus Crew. Lee then assisted on Darren Mattocks’ first of two goals during a 3-1 home win over Houston Dynamo on June 10 before assisting on Barry Robson’s first goal in MLS, and for Whitecaps FC, during a 2-2 home draw versus LA Galaxy on July 18. He also assisted on Dane Richards’ first goal for Whitecaps FC, as they defeated San Jose Earthquakes 2-1 at BC Place on July 22. Lee then started Whitecaps FC’s first-ever match in the MLS Cup Playoffs on Nov. 1, as Vancouver fell 2-1 at defending champions LA Galaxy.
SAUDI ARABIAN PROFESSIONAL LEAGUE:
2010-11: After Al-Hilal Saudi Football Club picked up Lee’s one-year contract option, the defender appeared in all but two of the Riyadh-based outfit’s 26 matches in the Saudi Professional League, as the club claimed their 13th league title under the stewardship of former Argentine international Gabriel Calderón. Al-Hilal also earned a 16th Saudi Crown Prince Cup title that season, while the defender made four appearances for the club in the 2011 Asian Football Confederation (AFC) Champions League. Al-Hilal reached the ‘Round of 16’ in Asia’s top club competition before falling 3-1 to Saudi rivals All-Ittihad on May 24, 2011. Despite receiving the offer of a contract extension, Lee opted not to extend his stay with Al-Hilal.
2009-10: Following a season in Germany with Borussia Dortmund, Lee moved to the Middle East when he joined Saudi Arabian giants Al-Hilal on a one-year contract - plus a one-year option - on July 9, 2009. Led by former PSV Eindhoven and Belgium star Eric Gerets, the defender made his debut in a 2-1 victory at Al-Qadisiyah FC on Aug. 19, 2009. He made 22 Saudi Professional League appearances for the Riyadh outfit that season, as Al-Hilal won their 12th league title. Lee also appeared in all four matches of Al-Hilal’s successful run to their 15th Saudi Crown Prince Cup title, while he also made four appearances in the end-of-season ‘Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques Champions Cup’, as Al-Hilal reached the final before losing on penalties to Saudi rivals All-Ittihad. The fullback also made six appearances for Al-Hilal in the 2010 AFC Champions League, with his only goal for the club being a dramatic winner in second-half time added on, as Al-Hilal defeated Group D opponents Al-Ahli Club 3-2 in the United Arab Emirates on Mar. 30, 2010. Al-Hilal reached the semifinals of Asia’s top club competition before losing 2-0 on aggregate to Iran’s Zob Ahan FC.
2008-09: After three seasons in England with Tottenham Hotspur FC, Lee moved to Germany when he joined Borussia Dortmund for an undisclosed fee on Aug. 27, 2008. His debut came in the Ruhr Valley derby, as Dortmund drew 3-3 with arch-rivals Schalke 04 on Sept. 13, 2008. During his lone season in the German Bundesliga, the fullback appeared in just over half of Dortmund’s league matches, as they finished sixth in the standings and missed out on a spot in the inaugural (2009-10) UEFA Europa League by two points. Lee also made two appearances for the club in the DFB-Pokal (German Cup), with Dortmund falling at the ‘Round of 16’ stage to eventual winners Werder Bremen. The defender also appeared in both legs of Dortmund’s first-round clash in the 38th and final edition of the UEFA Cup (now UEFA Europa League) versus Udinese Calcio. The German club missed out on the group stage after falling on penalties to the Italian Serie A outfit.
ENGLISH PREMIER LEAGUE:
2007-08: In his third and final season with Tottenham Hotspur FC, Lee appeared in just under half of the North London club’s matches in the English Premier League (EPL), with Spurs finishing 11th in the standings that season. He made two appearances in the English FA Cup that year, with Spurs reaching the fourth round before falling 3-1 at EPL giants Manchester United FC on Jan. 27, 2008. The fullback also made four appearances in the English League Cup that season, as he helped Spurs to their fourth League Cup title after they defeated London rivals Chelsea FC 2-1 after extra time in the final on Feb. 24, 2008. In European club competition, Lee made six appearances during Spurs’ run to the ‘Round of 16’ of the UEFA Cup, where they eventually fell on penalties to his former club PSV Eindhoven.
2006-07: Lee’s second season with Spurs was eventful, as Martin Jol’s side fared well in domestic and European club competitions. His 21 EPL appearances that season helped the North London outfit to a fifth-place finish in the standings and UEFA Cup qualification for the following season. Lee also made five appearances in the club’s English FA Cup run to the quarterfinals before Spurs fell 2-1 to London rivals Chelsea FC in a replay on Mar. 19, 2007. He made just one appearance in the club’s English League Cup run to the semifinals, where North London rivals Arsenal FC defeated Spurs 5-3 on aggregate. In Europe, the defender played four matches during Spurs’ run to the UEFA Cup quarterfinals, where Spanish club Sevilla defeated the English side 4-3 on aggregate – en route to their second straight UEFA Cup title.
2005-06: After making three Dutch Eredivisie appearances at the start of the season with PSV Eindhoven, Lee made a high-profile move to the EPL when he joined Tottenham Hotspur FC on the final day of the European summer transfer window (Aug. 31, 2005), with Spurs’ Dutch manager Jol touting him as "the best left back in Holland" at the time. His debut came during a goalless home draw versus EPL giants Liverpool FC on Sept. 10, 2005. The defender appeared in all but seven of the club’s 38 EPL matches that season, as the North London outfit finished fifth in the standings and earned UEFA Cup qualification for the following season. His first taste of cup soccer in England was less than memorable, as Spurs fell 1-0 at English League Two side Grimsby Town FC in the second round of the English League Cup on Sept. 20, 2005.
2005-06: Lee’s last three appearances for Philips Sport Vereniging (PSV) Eindhoven came at the start of the season. He played his final game for the club on Aug. 28, 2005, as PSV won 3-0 at Roda JC Kerkrade. On the final day of the European summer transfer window (Aug. 31, 2005), the defender transferred to English Premier League club Tottenham Hotspur FC.
2004-05: The defender’s third season with PSV proved to be his most successful with the Dutch giants, as Lee made a telling contribution as an attack-minded left fullback. He appeared in all but three of PSV’s 34 league matches that season, as Guus Hiddink’s side claimed their 18th Dutch Eredivisie title. His only goal for PSV came in a 2-0 home win over Dutch rivals Ajax on Oct. 24, 2004. Lee scored the winner before setting up a second goal by John de Jong. He also made four appearances in PSV’s run to their eighth KNVB (Dutch) Cup title that season. The fullback also made an important contribution to PSV reaching the semifinals of the UEFA Champions League, as he made 14 appearances in Europe’s top club competition that season. PSV missed out on the UEFA Champions League final after losing their two-leg semifinal clash to Italian giants AC Milan on the ‘away goals’ rule following a 3-3 aggregate result.
2003-04: In his first full season with PSV, Lee made 26 Eredivisie appearances, as the Eindhoven club finished second in the standings behind champions Ajax, with the club earning a qualifying spot in the UEFA Champions League for the following season. He also made two appearances in the club’s run to the Dutch Cup quarterfinals that year. His 12 appearances in European club competitions for PSV were split between the UEFA Champions League group stage in late 2003 and the knockout stages of the UEFA Cup in early 2004. PSV reached the UEFA Cup quarterfinals before falling 3-2 on aggregate to English Premier League club Newcastle United FC. As defending Eredivisie champions, Hiddink’s side won the Johan Cruyff Shield VIII (Dutch Super Cup) with a 3-1 win over Dutch Cup holders FC Utrecht.
2002-03: Following a string of memorable performances for his country at the 2002 FIFA World Cup, Lee joined former South Korea head coach Hiddink and fellow countryman Ji-Sung Park at PSV on an initial six-month loan deal from South Korean club Anyang LG Cheetahs on Jan. 9, 2003. The defender made 15 league appearances during the second half of the season, as he helped his new club to a 17th Dutch Eredivisie title, with PSV finishing one point ahead of arch-rivals Ajax in the standings. He also appeared twice in PSV’s run to the Dutch Cup semifinals that season.
SOUTH KOREAN K-LEAGUE:
2002: Lee’s third and final season with South Korean Professional Football League (K-League) side Anyang LG Cheetahs (now FC Seoul) was a busy one, as the defender was committed during the year to the South Korea squad for their co-hosting of the 2002 FIFA World Cup. In the spring, Anyang reached the semifinals of the K-League Cup after winning Group B. Following the World Cup, Lee returned to Anyang and appeared in all but four of his club’s 27 league matches, as the Cheetahs finished fourth in the K-League standings. His only goal that season came in a 3-1 home win over Pohang Steelers on July 31. Lee also took part in his third straight K-League All-Star Game as a member of Central All-Stars. They defeated Southern All-Stars 6-1 on Aug. 15. Anyang were then ousted from the Korean FA Cup in the first round following a 1-0 extra-time defeat at home to Hyundai Mipo Dockyard on Nov. 30, 2002.
2001: The defender’s second season with Anyang started with a Korea Super Cup title on Mar. 18. As reigning K-League champions, the Cheetahs defeated Korean FA Cup holders Chonbuk Hyundai Motors 2-1 in extra time. He then appeared in all but one of Anyang’s eight group matches in the K-League Cup, as the Cheetahs finished four fourth in Group A. Lee made 22 K-League appearances for Anyang, as they finished second in the standings - two points behind champions Seongnam Ilhwa Chunma. He appeared in his second straight K-League All-Star Game as a member of Central All-Stars, where they fell 2-1 to Southern All-Stars on Aug. 5. Anyang then reached the quarterfinals of Korean FA Cup before falling 2-1 at home to eventual winners Daejeon Citizen on Nov. 15.
2000: Lee moved into the professional ranks when he joined Anyang for the 2000 season. His first year in the K-League was a successful one, as he appeared in just over half of the Cheetahs’ league matches – en route to the club’s third K-League title. Anyang finished top of the standings by 11 points before claiming the K-League Championship with a 5-2 aggregate win over Bucheon SK. His first K-League goal came in a 2-1 home win over Daejeon Citizen on July 4 before the defender scored the winner in a 1-0 victory at Bucheon SK on July 12. Lee’s efforts earned him a first appearance in the K-League All-Star Game as a member of Central All-Stars. They fell to a 3-2 defeat versus Southern All-Stars on Aug. 15. The fullback also made three appearances in the two K-League Cup competitions, with Anyang finishing bottom of Group A in springtime Supplementary Cup, but reaching the semifinals in the autumn edition of the tournament before falling 4-3 to Seongnam Ilhwa Chunma on Oct. 20. It was the same club that ended Anyang’s Korean FA Cup run that season, as Seongnam Ilhwa Chunma defeated the Cheetahs 3-2 in extra time in the quarterfinals on Nov. 30.
Lee represented his native South Korea with distinction at the international level. He sits third on his country’s all-time international appearance list after earning 127 caps between June 1999 and Jan. 2011.
Senior: The fullback made his international debut for the Taeguk Warriors during the 1999 Korea Cup tournament, as hosts South Korea drew 1-1 with Mexico on June 12, 1999. His first of five international goals for his country was the match winner in South Korea’s 1-0 friendly win at Far East rivals China on July 28, 2000. Lee appeared in three straight FIFA World Cup tournaments for South Korea, with the defender part of Guus Hiddink’s famous squad that reached the semifinals of the 2002 World Cup, which they co-hosted with Far East rivals Japan. His five appearances at Korea and Japan 2002 included his assist on Jung-Hwan Ahn’s ‘golden goal’ that gave South Korea a famous 2-1 extra-time victory over Italy in the ‘Round of 16’ on June 18, 2002. He then made three starts in the 2006 World Cup in Germany, as South Korea finished third in Group G. In the 2010 World Cup in South Africa, Lee started all four of South Korea’s matches, as the Taeguk Warriors reached the ‘Round of 16’ before falling 2-1 to Uruguay on June 26, 2010. The defender also made three appearances during his country’s co-hosting of the 2001 FIFA Confederations Cup, as they finished third in Group A. Lee also played twice against Canada in the 2000 and 2002 CONCACAF Gold Cup when South Korea participated in the tournament as a guest nation. The defender also appeared in three Asian Football Confederation (AFC) Asian Cup tournaments. He played in all six matches of South Korea’s third-place finish at the 2000 AFC Asian Cup in Lebanon. In China in 2004, Lee played all four AFC Asian Cup matches for his country, as South Korea reached the quarterfinals before falling 4-3 to Iran on July 31, 2004. It was at the 2011 AFC Asian Cup in Qatar that Lee brought his international career to a close, as he appeared in all six matches for the Taeguk Warriors. His final international appearance was in the third-place match, as South Korea defeated Uzbekistan 3-2 on Jan. 28, 2011.
U-23: As a member of South Korea’s U-23 Olympic squad, the defender started all three matches for his country at the 2000 Sydney Olympics. South Korea missed out on the quarterfinals of the 2000 Men’s Olympic Football Tournament after finishing third in Group B.
Before turning professional with Anyang LG Cheetah, Lee played four years for Konkuk University in Seoul, South Korea, between 1997 and 2000.
Born and raised in Hongcheon-gun, South Korea, Lee is married to Bo-Yoon Jang and has two daughters named Hael and Na-el. As a student, the defender earned a degree in governmental issues and politics at Konkuk University in Seoul, South Korea. The fullback is known to be a devout Christian.
When not concentrating on his soccer career, Lee enjoys watching movies, listening to music, and reading. An avid golfer, the defender is good friends with top professional golfer and fellow countryman Kyong-Ju (KJ) Choi.