Six years after leaving college to embark on a soccer journey that took him to Europe and Vietnam, Lee Nguyen has signed to play in MLS. Nguyen, who terminated his contract with Vietnamese club Becamex Binh Duong FC in June, has signed a multi-year MLS contract as a free agent and will be assigned to team via a weighted lottery.
Though he represented the USA at the 2005 U-20 World Cup and earned three caps for the U.S. National Team in 2007, he’s not subject to the allocation process, as no team stated it would use an allocation slot on him.
“Lee is a player that MLS is delighted to sign, with the contract potentially extending through 2015,” said MLS director of player personnel Lino Di Cuollo of the 25-year-old native of Richardson, Texas. “We feel his signing is a testament to the league’s commitment to bringing back talented American players. He has done well internationally, having played on multiple clubs in Europe and Asia, and we expect that he will be a terrific attacking option for whichever club he joins.”
Nguyen (pronounced “win”) left for the Netherlands after his freshman year (2005) at Indiana. He played just one senior match during two seasons with PSV Eindhoven before moving to Randers FC in Denmark, where he played 22 games before his contract expired in June 2009. In the midst of his travels he debuted for the U.S. as a substitute in a friendly against China June, 2, 2007, and made two more appearances off the bench later that year at the Copa America.
An opportunity to play in Vietnam led to acclaim and stardom. He scored 14 goals in 29 V-League appearances with Hoang Anh Gia Lai and Becamex Binh Duong FC, and as a high-profile “foreign” player of Vietnamese origin, Nguyen regularly turned up in the gossip magazines and on entertainment shows. Before signing with Binh Duong in the summer of 2010, he flirted with MLS and drew some interest from several teams, but eventually opted for the Vietnamese club at a salary of approximately $100,000. He was purported to be the highest-paid athlete in the country.
A dispute with the coach of Hoàng Anh Gia Lai had led to his departure and by last June he’d burned another bridge. Nguyen and Binh Duong FC agreed to terminate his contract and then began discussions with MLS, which will conduct a weighted lottery – probably next week – to assign his rights.