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Next Stop: China

United investor Will Chang tells me that he and technical director Dave Kasper will be in Beijing next week to attend an international football symposium and to meet with representatives from Chinese clubs. The purpose of those meetings is to build relationships and perhaps enter into formal partnerships like the one United announced last week with Brazilian club Atletico Mineiro. Kasper said he will attend league matches.

United is already familiar with young Chinese players; this past winter Kasper saw a youth national team in person while on tour in England. Asked if United is pursing a player, Chang replied: "We're always looking -- not only in China."

AEG boss Tim Leiweke will also be in Beijing for the conference.

"One of the priorities for Major League Soccer is to be able to expand our commercial rights to China, just like any other league," Chang said. "Major League Baseball has opened an office there, the NBA is there big-time, the NFL has talked about playing games there. So the reason why is pretty obvious: the commercial opportunities for us."

On his way to China, Kasper will spend a few days in Poland. "I'm just going to follow up on a few things," he said.

Perhaps a new player? "You never know," he said.

Kasper also said the young defender from England here on trial will be in town all week and the club will likely make a decision Friday whether to offer him a developmental contract.

By Steve Goff  |  May 7, 2007; 11:04 AM ET
Categories:  D.C. United  
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Next: Polska Prospect


Maybe they can find the next Yao Ming, but as a defender.

Posted by: DC United Fan | May 7, 2007 11:45 AM | Report abuse

Glad to hear they're looking, looking, looking.....and I love Will Chang already. The man is quickly gaining the reputation as the most fan-friendly owner in all of professional sports. And BTW, Goff, shouldn't it be United "Owner" Will Chang? What's with the "investor" title?

Posted by: Grotus | May 7, 2007 11:55 AM | Report abuse

is there an unoffical partnership with fulham, or at least with an agent who has players in fulhams youth system? did the new trialist come through the same connections as casal?

Posted by: pat | May 7, 2007 11:56 AM | Report abuse

There are no team owners in MLS's single-entity structure. They are investors in the league as a whole who are awarded operating rights to a team. Technically, they are all "investor-operators." Awkward, indeed.

Posted by: Goff | May 7, 2007 11:57 AM | Report abuse

One of DCU's connections to England is Casal's brother, who is a youth coach over there. He suggested DCU take a look at this defender.

Posted by: Goff | May 7, 2007 11:58 AM | Report abuse

Goff. The way you write of it, it sounds like the China portion of the trip is a smokescreen for the Polish layover? Or at least a double scouting trip before the signing window opens in a little bit. Our roster is full, so where do you see the space coming from? It seems that if Walker and Wilson were going to play at all, it would have happened in the last week, so we should expect two open slots there. They aren't development playersm so... Is there anyone else who's head is definitely on the chopping block?

Posted by: LeesburgSoccerFan | May 7, 2007 12:08 PM | Report abuse

Commercial opportunities for DC United?

You mean selling Beckham jerseys or opening a sweatshop to make them?

If people in DC don't want to watch a DCU game or buy the stuff what makes us think people in China will?

Posted by: Southeasterner | May 7, 2007 12:12 PM | Report abuse

Will is doing the right things. He's been in Denver, Hondo, saw him at half time wandering around the top of the barra.

I like him alot.

Guess the key determining factor will be to see if Will lets the soccer people make the soccer decisions without undue influence.

Posted by: JSF | May 7, 2007 12:19 PM | Report abuse

*Smokescreen? How so?? As I said, Kasper is heading to Poland and then China -- the overall trip has two purposes: checking on players in Poland and developing relationships with Chinese clubs.

*If they sign a senior player, who's gone? Walker is clearly in danger. If they sign a developmental, perhaps North? Too early to say.

*International marketing is crucial to all leagues, especially soccer and basketball, because so many potential players (and fans) are overseas. It's a long-term strategy. Smart move.

Posted by: Goff | May 7, 2007 12:24 PM | Report abuse

Mr. Goff. Thanks for answering my question. I'll admit my ignorance of the DCU business plan, org chart, and who has what responsibilities in the single-entity league structure. Is marketing run more by the league, or by the teams themselves? I understand local teams marketing to draw local fans, but what about merchandise? It's complicated in the NFL and other US professional leagues without the single-entity structure to make it more complex. How much does the league get involved with these partnerships like Atletico Mineiro? MLS is a great entertainment product, but the business side is truly fascinating.

Posted by: LeesburgSoccerFan | May 7, 2007 12:53 PM | Report abuse

DCU handles its own local marketing. MLS is responsible for national efforts. Every MLS team pursues foreign partnerships on their own. Some are more aggressive than others. Not sure of the merchandising breakdown.

Posted by: Goff | May 7, 2007 12:56 PM | Report abuse

Herr Goff,

Do you have anymore info on this Edwin kid? I found online that he played for some youth academy called London United (apparently this is one of the elite youth academies in England!). Thanks for always having the inside scoop and succeeding when Google fails:)

Posted by: Dave the Wave | May 7, 2007 1:15 PM | Report abuse

Don't know much about him. Born in Zambia, but he's Ugandan. Has lived in England for several years. He's 19 years old. He and Kasali Yinka Casal have known each other for about five years. His strengths are central defense and left back. He'll be on trial all week. If DCU likes him, they would likely offer a developmental contract. They would also need permission from Fulham to sign him, although no transfer fees involved (same as Casal).

Posted by: Goff | May 7, 2007 1:25 PM | Report abuse

It's kind of amusing that they're comparing MLS to the NBA/NFL/MLB in the international arena. I'm fine with trying to sell that at home as another major league sport, but worldwide, NBA/NFL/MLB are the premier entities of their respective sports, bar none; while in the worldwide soccer community, MLS is... I don't know, where'd we end up in the other discussion? 12th? I don't think we'll be having regular season matches in Asia anytime soon.

Posted by: bbarrie | May 7, 2007 1:36 PM | Report abuse

"...I don't think we'll be having regular season matches in Asia anytime soon."

I agree, but with a question: Would an MLS team (preferably DCU) have to win the FIFA Club World Cup before that kind of touring thing would become economically viable?

Posted by: Juan-John | May 7, 2007 2:37 PM | Report abuse

You've got to make an effort internationally, don't you? How do you grow as a league in the long term (not necessarly for next weekend's matches, not 5-10 years down the road) if you don't increase your brand recognition overseas in the most international of all sports? MLS has concentrated almost exclusively on domestic marketing since the beginning. Those efforts will continue, but some teams (namely DCU and AEG clubs) see the need to implement international efforts. You meet soccer people, you meet biz people, you establish relationships. Down the road, they could pay off. How is this a bad thing?

Posted by: Goff | May 7, 2007 2:41 PM | Report abuse

I didn't mean to imply that they were spinning their wheels, just that they're not doing the same thing that the other leagues are doing, which is promoting their league as the premier worldwide league for their respective sport. Actually I think it would be great to do some pre-season tours of Asia/Europe/Wherever and improve our brand awareness and pick up some stray fans here and there. There's no reason why you shouldn't be able to see DCU uniforms walking down the sidewalks of the world the way you see the uniforms of the world walking down the sidewalks of DC. Of course we'll need to win some more games first.

Posted by: bbarrie | May 7, 2007 2:50 PM | Report abuse

i'm glad they are thinking on this level.

Posted by: hokie soccer fan | May 7, 2007 2:58 PM | Report abuse

Goff said the magic words! Left-back! Oh, listen to the creamy, ululous tones of those beautiful words. Left. Back. Say it with me, everyone - No, not you Gros, you go play midfield...

Posted by: Grotus | May 7, 2007 2:58 PM | Report abuse

Nevertheless, one will definitely see a good deal of LA Galaxy kits in Asia after this season - especially with the LAG's planned tour of Asia later this year once Beck's arrives.

After all, Beckham had a woman's haircut named after him during the 2002 Korea/Japan World Cup.

Posted by: Mickey | May 7, 2007 3:00 PM | Report abuse

Hey, off thread here, but did anyone see the "Erp Fu" post on Big Soccer? Funny stuff.

Posted by: grotus | May 7, 2007 3:00 PM | Report abuse

On the marketing front it seems like MLS has decades of work to do in the US to become a well known and respected league before going off to China to promote it.

We have so much untapped youth talent in the US who have no idea that MLS even exists and are growing up with NFL, NBA and MLB dreams. That is the group MLS should be targeting. Once we have better players in the US then we can trade for whatever Asian talent we want.

Lets try to fill up our new stadiums in Chicago and Denver before going off to target Asian fans outside of Beijing.

Posted by: Southeasterner | May 7, 2007 3:03 PM | Report abuse

Let's see:
1 billion people,
a growing consumer class,
increased access to television,
soccer fans,
minimal overlap with the Euro league schedules.

C'mon folks, wake up and smell the $$. Am I the only one who listens to Marketplace?

Posted by: I-270, Exit 1 | May 7, 2007 3:04 PM | Report abuse

After Will Chang's trip I think it would be funny if it would be easier to find a DC United jersey in downtown Beijing than at the local Sports Authority.

Posted by: Chico | May 7, 2007 3:12 PM | Report abuse

I forgot to add: Relative to the Euroleagues MLS gives us an opportunity to get back at the Chinese by giving them a cheaper, inferior product made by low wage workers in sub-standard working conditions (gridiron stadiums).

Posted by: I-270, Exit 1 | May 7, 2007 3:12 PM | Report abuse

As long as this doesn't come at the expense of furthering the MLS brand here, I can see no problems with this. Good long-term thinking. Plus, just as the trips to Brazil and Argentina have borne fruit on the field, this could too. There are very good Chinese players that could come to MLS and further diversify the league. I'm not sure how the Chinese community would respond to an MLS player, but there's only one way to really find out.

Steven, wasn't there talk years ago of having some sort of Pacific rim tournament with MLS, J-League, K-League, and possibly other Asian teams participating? Obviously MLS is focusing on Superliga and getting guaranteed spots in Copa Sudamericana (and eventually, Copa Libertadores), but that could be interesting too.

Posted by: Chest Rockwell | May 7, 2007 3:24 PM | Report abuse

DC United has already played preseason matches in Asia, so this isn't as big of a deal as some might think . From a marketing standpoint, asia is just another region to show that americans (and US clubs) can indeed play the game at a higher level, certainly at a level on par with J-league or other asian leagues. I'd venture to guess that DC's games vs. U de Catolica, Chivas and so on has upped their visibility ever-so-slightly down south. Excercises like this one may help in future recruitment of players, if not sell a couple of shirts along the way. What's wrong with that?

"C'mon folks, wake up and smell the $$. Am I the only one who listens to Marketplace?"


Posted by: d, dc | May 7, 2007 3:29 PM | Report abuse

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