Teal Bunbury is in England.  Taking part in training and reserve matches with Stoke City, he scored against Wigan yesterday in a 3-1 loss, and impressed with his play.  Depending on who you believe, the young striker is either there simply to gain valuable experience in training, or is on trial to tempt the Potters into making a move for his services.

Sporting Kansas City is saying training.  Word out of England is trial.

Trial or not, I've been told that Stoke is certainly interested in Bunbury, and has been tracking his progress since he was in high school.  If SKC's denial that the trip is a trial is true, perhaps Bunbury is getting his feet wet with an eye towards a transfer in the future.  From SKC and Major League Soccer's end, I find it hard to believe they would let go of a promising American talent who just earned his first US National Team cap last month.  Bunbury is the type of young talent a club like SKC, heading into their new stadium in 2011, should hold on to.

I wonder if Sporting KC is denying it's a trial because Bunbury's time at Stoke is not precursor to a move this winter but might lead to something in the summer (or beyond).  Technically, it's a trial because Stoke City is assessing him in order to make a decision on buying him from MLS.  By most people's understanding of the word, and the turnaround time it usually implies, it's not.   Hence SKC's objection.

The word most often used to describe Bunbury is "raw." Heading off to Stoke City with just one year of professional soccer under his belt and no guarantee of playing time doesn't make much sense. Throw in the pesky detail that he'd need a work permit to make the move, any lines used to connect these dots are getting thin.

But Bunbury may not need a work permit.  A birdie has told me that he might have access to a Portuguese passport. If you're slightly confused, allow me to explain why it's a somewhat believable possibility.

Teal's father, Canadian great Alex Bunbury, played in Portugal for Marítimo from 1993 to 1999.  Per the best resource I can find, (uh, Wikipedia) a person over the age of 18 can be naturalized as a Portuguese citizen after six years of residence.  Children under the age of 18 (which Teal obviously was while in Portugal with his father) acquire citizenship when a parent is naturalized.

So if Alex Bunbury is a Portuguese citizen, Teal Bunbury has no barrier to playing in a European Union nation other than the necessary business of Sporting Kansas City selling him.  As of this writing, I haven't been able to determine if Alex Bunbury was naturalized while playing in Portugal.  It's worth noting that the time line is tight; '93-'99 is the six years needed to meet the Portuguese requirement, but Alex Bunbury moved back to North America to play with the Wizards in June of 1999.  A few months here or there could make a big difference.

The only verifiable facts are that Teal Bunbury is at Stoke City playing soccer, and that a partial owner of the club based in the US told a writer with his American club's website that Bunbury has been on the Potters' radar for some time.  Everything else, including the true nature of Bunbury's stay in England, is either speculation, a guess, or a matter of semantics. 

Make of it what you will.

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