Lagerwey is viewed as perhaps the best sporting director in MLS history. The executive was the chief architect behind Seattle becoming the first MLS team to win the modern-era Concacaf Champions League this year, and in his career has won MLS Cup three times (and made another three MLS Cup Finals).
Lagerwey takes over after Atlanta's first-ever club president, Darren Eales, departed in August to join Newcastle United in the English Premier League. Under Eales, Atlanta set MLS records for attendance while winning MLS Cup in their second season (2018).
“I see the opportunity to lead Atlanta United as a dream come true for me,” said Lagerwey. “The opportunity to take on the chief executive role at a club with incredible ownership, unmatched resources and infrastructure, and the amazing fan support this club has enjoyed from the start, all made this move the perfect next step in my career.
“Honestly, it’s the chance of a lifetime and I could not be more excited to get to Atlanta and get to work.”
RSL, Seattle success
While at Seattle, Lagerwey constructed two MLS Cup-winning teams (2016, ‘19) and they made MLS Cup on two other occasions (2017, ‘20). His Sounders team also reached the Leagues Cup Final in 2021.
Before moving to Seattle in 2015, Lagerwey served as general manager and senior vice president of soccer operations for Real Salt Lake, guiding them to their lone MLS Cup title (2009) and another MLS Cup appearance (2013). His RSL teams also reached the US Open Cup Final in 2013, and in 2011 RSL became the first MLS team to reach the Concacaf Champions League Final.
“Our foundational goal from day one in Major League Soccer has been for Atlanta United to be a contender for MLS Cup each year, so we set out to find a leader with deep knowledge and experience in the league and a proven track record of success,” said AMBSE CEO, Steve Cannon.
“We have certainly found that leader in Garth Lagerwey and could not be more thrilled to have him take the reins of our team. His body of work in Seattle and Salt Lake City speaks for itself. His experience as a player in the league and time as an executive who has developed a keen understanding of both the soccer and business sides of running an organization made him the perfect fit as we move forward with Atlanta United.”
The announcement is a potentially seismic piece of news in the world of MLS. Atlanta are one of the highest-spending clubs in the league and Lagerwey has been among the most successful chief soccer officers in MLS. He has found continued success with differing budgets (increased with Seattle from RSL) and as the league has transitioned into new eras.
In recent years, Lagerwey signed Nicolas Lodeiro, Raúl Ruidíaz and João Paulo as DPs to lead the Sounders. He also helped convince Jordan Morris to sign a homegrown contract despite interest from Germany, while selecting Cristian Roldan in the SuperDraft, then signed both to long-term contract extensions.
“I’d like to thank Garth for all he’s done for Sounders FC over the past eight seasons,” said Sounders FC owner Adrian Hanauer. “He helped elevate our club to new heights while also working hard behind the scenes to strengthen our player development pathway, data and analytics departments, academy ranks, Tacoma Defiance roster and much more.
“Garth’s intellect, persistence and energy helped drive the club forward, and I will never forget his vision for capturing the Concacaf Champions League title and how he energized our fans before this year’s final against Pumas. Many people make up the mosaic of Seattle soccer history, and Garth is certainly on that list of great Sounders that have forged our club into what we all know and love. Congratulations to Garth for taking on this different role in Atlanta, we wish him and his family the best moving forward."
Lagerwey spent five seasons as a goalkeeper in MLS with the Kansas City Wizards, Dallas Burn and Miami Fusion. He then earned a law degree from Georgetown University in 2004 after he retired from playing soccer.