Craig Waibel

Seattle Sounders FC have turned within to replace Garth Lagerwey, announcing Wednesday they’ve appointed Craig Waibel as their new general manager and chief soccer officer.

Waibel’s promotion arrives after Garth Lagerwey departed last week to become Atlanta United’s president and CEO. From April 2021 until this change, Waibel was Seattle’s sporting director and senior VP of soccer operations.

He now oversees all areas of the club’s soccer operations, encompassing the first team, Tacoma Defiance (MLS NEXT Pro) and Sounders FC Academy. Waibel served as GM at Real Salt Lake from 2015-19.

“Since joining the club, not only has Craig proven himself a fantastic executive, but also someone who understands our league as a whole and understands our soccer community in the Pacific Northwest,” Sounders owner Adrian Hanauer said in a release.

“He’s a Sounder through and through, dating back to his playing days with us in the A-League, going on to become one of the most experienced executives in North American soccer. We are fortunate to have him leading us during this crucial phase in our history, I’m excited to continue working with him and look forward to what he can accomplish.”

Seattle are in a pivotal period, coming off a 2022 season where they missed the Audi MLS Cup Playoffs for the first time in their 14-year MLS history. That came after they won the Concacaf Champions League, becoming the first MLS team to summit that regional mountaintop instead of a Liga MX team.

After their CCL title, Seattle are set to become MLS’s first team at the FIFA Club World Cup. Competition details and timing haven’t been announced.

“I am excited to get to work as the new general manager of Seattle Sounders FC,” Waibel said. “This is a special organization and I embrace the high expectations that this club has of itself.

“The Sounders community means a great deal to me. This was the club that drafted me as a young man, it’s where I made my professional debut, and as a Spokane native I fully understand the history and civic pride that runs so deep in this region. I can’t thank Adrian enough for the opportunity and his confidence in my stewardship.”

Despite the front-office change, Seattle have a strong core remaining and Brian Schmetzer as head coach. They have four players at the ongoing FIFA World Cup – defender Nouhou (Cameroon), defender Xavier Arreaga (Ecuador) midfielder Cristian Roldan (USA) and forward Jordan Morris (USA) – while forward Raul Ruidiaz and midfielders Nicolas Lodeiro and Albert Rusnak were Designated Players in 2022.

With that foundation and Waibel’s MLS know-how, the pieces appear in place for Seattle to remain among the league’s most successful clubs.

“Craig is someone who, on top of being a quality executive in this league, has a great understanding of our soccer culture in Seattle,” said Schmetzer. “We saw what he accomplished in Salt Lake before joining our club, and his impact since arriving has been tangible.

“He’s shown to be a great fit within our organization and is well-respected amongst the staff. I’d like to wish Craig a heartfelt congratulations on the new role, and I’m eager to continue working with him and building the club.”

During his 11-year MLS playing career from 2000-10, Waibel featured for the Colorado Rapids, LA Galaxy, San Jose Earthquakes and Houston Dynamo FC. He won four MLS Cups, one Supporters’ Shield and one US Open Cup.