It wasn't enough to win the English Premier League championship, perhaps the most honorable prize in all of professional soccer. Chelsea, the suddenly stylish club from southwest London, had ended 50 years of general hopelessness in May by running away with the title under its young Russian billionaire owner, Roman Abramovich, and his quirky Portuguese coach, Jose Mourinho.

But just because the Blues had won one little ol' trophy and, in the process, smashed the Manchester United-Arsenal empire with a nearly perfect season, it certainly didn't signal the end to their mission.

After all, they didn't win the English FA Cup, the oldest competition in soccer, and were tripped up on their way to the European Champions Cup. Of long-term significance, the club came to the realization that, despite the sudden resurgence, its popularity in England and the rest of the world was dwarfed by that of the sport's eminent clubs.

So Chelsea went out this month and bought a prized young midfielder, English speedster Shaun Wright-Phillips, and began vigorously pursuing one of the best players from Africa, Ghana's Michael Essien.

What's another $76 million when you've already spent a half-billion on player acquisitions the last few years?

"We're a little bit behind in world appeal and we're playing catch-up," said Bruce Buck, Chelsea's New Jersey-born chairman. "Even at the top of English football, we're the new blood on the block. Now we're there and we're upsetting the apple cart, which I think is good for football generally, but of course it doesn't make Manchester United and Arsenal particularly happy.

"From a marketing perspective, we have a way to go. From a footballing perspective, I think we're there and we intend to continue to win trophies year after year after year."

The way to win trophies is by assembling a roster that strikes fear into Real Madrid, Barcelona and AC Milan -- not to mention the English soccer aristocracy. But while on-field success will inevitably attract new fans, Chelsea has also upgraded its marketing campaign the last two years in an attempt to join its European rivals in global appeal.

Buck said the club has targeted four regions where it would like to improve its profile: London, where Chelsea has traditionally been overshadowed by Arsenal and Tottenham Hotspur; China, which has rapidly embraced European and South American soccer; Russia, where Abramovich is a well-known figure; and the United States, with its passionate and lucrative sports market.

For the second straight preseason, Chelsea has come to America. Last year it played exhibitions against European teams in Seattle, Pittsburgh and Philadelphia and this summer it returned for friendlies against AC Milan in the Boston and New York areas as well as tonight's meeting with defending MLS champion D.C. United at FedEx Field in Landover.

"I've seen them quite a few times," defender John Terry said of D.C. United. "When we have late away games, we get back at 2, 3 or 4 in the morning and switch the TV on and some of the games are on overseas. I know Freddy Adu plays there; you know a couple of other good players. It's going to be a good game and a good test."

Buck added: "It's good for MLS and it's good for Chelsea. It gives U.S. fans a different perspective. It gives us an opportunity to see what professional soccer is like in the U.S. It's a good cross-fertilization process."

Buck, 59, has helped bridge the gap between U.S. and English soccer. He grew up in West Orange, N.J., idolized New York Yankees first baseman Moose Skowron and graduated from Columbia before moving to Europe in 1983.

He became a managing partner for Skadden, Arps, one of the world's biggest law firms, and, through his work with Abramovich's oil interests, he helped the Russian oligarch purchase Chelsea two years ago.

While Abramovich, 38, owns 84 million shares in Chelsea Ltd., Buck owns one -- because every English company is required to have at least two shareholders.

In his quest to build the perfect soccer machine, Abramovich has spent hundreds of millions of dollars on player acquisitions. Deemed foolish by many observers, the moves paid off last season when Chelsea buried Arsenal and Manchester United -- which had combined to win nine straight Premier League titles and 11 of the previous 12 crowns -- to win its first top-flight championship since 1955.

To strengthen the club for the 2005-06 season, which will begin in two weeks, Chelsea purchased Wright-Phillips from Manchester City for $36.5 million and is about to close an estimated $40 million deal for Essien with French club Lyon. It also reacquired Argentine striker Hernan Crespo, who had been on loan to AC Milan.

Nonetheless, the Blues' support throughout the world pales in comparison to Manchester United, which has won the league 15 times, the FA Cup 11 times and the European Champions Cup twice.

Chelsea claims about 18 million fans internationally, while United's following ranges from 55 million to 75 million. Arsenal and Liverpool, which won the European title in May, also have wider appeal.

Chelsea's rise, however, seems to be getting to United and Arsenal officials, who have been taking snipes at the newcomer.

Blues chief executive Peter Kenyon reacted by telling English reporters: "It is born out of hypocrisy and fundamental insecurity. There have been two kids on the block for 12 years. Now there is suddenly a third kid and that one is threatening to be more successful than the other two and they don't like it."