MLS Hoping To Tap Into Asian Market To Expand Talent Pool
MLS continues to expand its global reach, but it has "yet to make extensive inroads into the Asian market to convince top talent that playing in North America can be the next move in their careers," according to Tim Booth of the AP. There currently are "only three internationals from Japan or South Korea" playing in MLS. The league has been "highly successful recruiting players out of South America and it's starting to shed the reputation of being a retirement league for Europeans." However, Japan and South Korea are "markets producing solid international players, yet MLS has mostly been an afterthought there." Whitecaps MF In-beom Hwang, who this year joined the team from South Korea, believes that there are a "growing number of players considering MLS as a potential springboard to opportunities in Europe." He said, "My ultimate goal is to go to a higher level and go to one of the European leagues and I knew that to achieve that I have to have many eyes watching me playing and I thought that MLS is where there are many people watching." Whitecaps VP/Soccer Operations Greg Anderson and Sounders VP/Soccer & Sporting Dir Chris Henderson believe that the "primary challenge for MLS is exposure overseas." Most Asian players are "going to be more familiar with the Premier League or Bundesliga" (AP, 6/27).