The Seattle Sounders have hired Craig Waibel as their senior vice president of soccer operations and sporting director, the club announced Thursday.
Waibel was previously Real Salt Lake’s general manager and will reunite with Seattle general manager and president of soccer Garth Lagerwey after they worked together at RSL. In Seattle, Waibel will assist Lagerwey in all areas of soccer operations, including scouting, player identification, player management and the club’s overall development system.
“After an exhaustive interview process, we feel Craig Waibel is uniquely qualified to make us better,” Lagerwey said in a release. “His years of experience as a GM gives him a track record of success picking players and overseeing a club, while his experience with player development will hopefully push our best young talents into further success with our first team.
“Perhaps most importantly, his personal connection to our community here in Seattle, through UW and the Sounders, is what gives this hire the potential to be really special. With all of these qualities in mind, I could not be more excited to work with Craig going forward as our new sporting director.”
Seattle had a vacancy to fill after Chris Henderson, in mid-January, was named chief soccer officer and sporting director at Inter Miami CF. Henderson spent the prior 13 years as Seattle’s sporting director, helping the club go from an expansion launch in 2009 to year-over-year consistency in MLS.
Waibel played at the University of Washington from 1995-98 before joining the Sounders in the A-League for two years. Then came an 11-year run in MLS, including 175 appearances and four MLS Cup titles across stops with the Colorado Rapids, LA Galaxy, San Jose Earthquakes and Houston Dynamo FC.
Waibel started as an RSL assistant coach in 2014 before being promoted to technical director in 2015. He then took over from Lagerway upon his departure to Seattle, steering RSL to the postseason during three of his four seasons at the helm.
“I’m very excited to return to the Pacific Northwest and join one of the most successful organizations in MLS,” Waibel said in a release. “I have very fond memories of Seattle from my time at the University of Washington and as a Sounder in my playing days, on top of respecting this club as an opponent in the Western Conference while with RSL. I look forward to working with Garth and Brian [Schmetzer] and doing what I can to continue the success that they, and others, have already built here.”