Home MLS Vancouver Whitecaps Whitecaps enter Nguyen sweepstakes… but what did they win?

Whitecaps enter Nguyen sweepstakes… but what did they win?


The Vancouver Whitecaps rolled the dice.

The team was one of just six MLS teams to put their names in the lottery for American/Vietnamese midfielder Lee Nguyen. The Whitecaps had the best odds of getting him, and the cards came up trumps.

“We’re very excited to add a talented player like Lee,” said Whitecaps head coach Martin Rennie in a release. “He’s a young player with a bright future. We look forward to seeing him in preseason.”

Or did the cards really pay off? Because, now that the Whitecaps have secured Nguyen, MLS rules state that the team can no longer participate in any weighted lotteries this season, unless, by some miracle, all 19 teams get players through the course of the season OR a player is made available that no one else wants.

Lee Nguyen in his PSV days.

So, if another non-draft prospect makes himself available the Whitecaps can’t go in.

It’s one of the reasons many GMs pass on some of the weighted lotteries; they think there might be a better one coming up in the coming months.

Here is the MLS rulebook: “Some players shall be assigned to MLS teams via the weighted Lottery process. Any team assigned a player through the lottery in any particular season shall not be assigned another lottery player that season unless and until all teams have received a lottery player or have agreed to waive their option to participate in a Lottery.”

The question is when does the statute of limitations run out? The 11 has received conflicting information today.There is a suggestion out there that Nguyen signing is being back-dated to 2011 — which would allow the Whitecaps to get in another lottery for next season, even though every team in the league is prepping for 2012. MLS headquarters nor the Whitecaps answered written queries for clarification.

Toronto FC was one of the six teams that went in for Nguyen. The Montreal Impact passed.

So, what are the Whitecaps getting? Nguyen has three senior caps with the U.S. national program and played at the 2007 Copa America. He spent the last two and a half seasons in Vietnam, where he scored 14 times in 29 games. But, before that, his resume asn’t exactly stellar. Sure, he was with PSV Eindhoven for two seasons, but he played in just two games for them. He then spent two years at Danish side Randers, but got into just 23 games over two seasons. And the Vietnamese League? There’s no way to really quantify Nguyen’s numbers — because the Vietnamese League has been so badly marred by match-fixing and gambling scandals that it’s impossible to take any numbers seriously. In fact, the league is reinventing itself as a new corporation to try and show fans that it doesn’t resemble the old guard.

And, to give you an idea of the caliber of Vietnamese pro soccer, Becamex, the team for which Nguyen most recently played, was was winless in the 2008 Asian Champions League group stage, scoring four times and giving up 17 goals.

So, this begs the question: Knowing another prospect might come out of the woodwork, and that your league position gives you a better shot than most in any weighted lottery, would you have jumped at Nguyen, or waited to see if something better came along?

The Whitecaps have had mixed success in terms of bringing in talent from lower leagues. Brazilian forward Camilo led the team in scoring after struggling in South Korea. But Designated Player Mustapha Jarju has so far had a difficult time making the jump from second-division Belgian football to MLS (and, make no mistake about it, second-division soccer in Belgium is indeed a few rungs below MLS).

Nguyen has already stated that he’s excited to come to Vancouver, so we shouldn’t have a repeat of 2010, when the Kansas City Wizards won a weighted lottery for Luis Gil, even though the American teen made it clear he wanted to play for only either Seattle or Real Salt Lake. SKC dealt him to RSL a day after the draft.


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  1. Craig

    December 16, 2011 at 11:12 pm

    What might the Caps miss out on? Are there any other valuable American/Canadian players rumored to be returning?

    How is this different from a ‘discovery claim’ that Montreal has, or that TFC had for Brian McBride? IIRC, TFC didn’t have to go through a weighted lottery for his rights.

    • Steven Sandor

      December 16, 2011 at 11:19 pm

      Yes, the lottery system is quite different from Discovery Claims. The lottery is used for players who would have been eligible for the draft, left for greener pastures and then made themselves available, or Generation Adidas prospects who are join the league after the draft. McBride was a professional player with MLS experience. But these lotteries are becoming more and more common.

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