Garth Lagerwey has left the Seattle Sounders to join Atlanta United as the team president and CEO, the clubs announced on Tuesday. Lagerwey signed a multi-year contract in which he’ll have oversight of the first team, Atlanta United 2 and the academy.
“I’d like to thank Garth for all he’s done for Sounders FC over the past eight seasons,” Sounders Owner Adrian Hanauer said in a team statement. “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.”
In addition to leading the Sounders to the CCL trophy this year, Lagerwey also oversaw two MLS Cups, two more trips to MLS Cup finals and even a Leagues Cup final during eight years at the helm. He was also credited with modernizing the front-office and academy organizationally, adding significant numbers to their staff and formalizing their systems.
“It’s no exaggeration to say that the past eight years in Seattle have been life-changing for me and my family,” Lagerwey said in a statement. “I’m so grateful to the entire Sounders community for welcoming us with open arms and for supporting the club through these amazing years. Earlier this season, we achieved immortality together by becoming the first MLS team to win the Concacaf Champions League. I will never forget that moment in front of a record-setting crowd, along with the MLS Cups we captured in 2016 and 2019. But more than anything, I’ll remember the people surrounding this club. There is a spirit to this place that is distinct, from the players, to the staff and Sounders fans, the culture of the Puget Sound soccer community is something I’ll always think of fondly. Thank you to Adrian Hanauer for this opportunity, it was a privilege to be a part of the Sounders organization.”
While the news comes a bit suddenly — results of Lagerwey’s successful retention vote were only made official last week — this news is not entirely surprising. Atlanta was the one team in MLS that could offer Lagerwey a realistic promotion, not only granting him oversight over the league’s most ambitious transfer budget but also a spot on the prestigious Competition Committee. Like Seattle, Atlanta plays in front of massive crowds and will also be hosting World Cup games in 2026.
“I see the opportunity to lead Atlanta United as a dream come true for me,” Lagerwey said in a separate statement. “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.”
Although no announcements were made, it seems likely that the Sounders could simply choose to promote Craig Waibel to general manager, at least in the interim. Waibel joined the Sounders in 2021 after having previously served as GM for Real Salt Lake and is already the Sounders’ top talent evaluator. He would be just the third person to hold that position heading into the Sounders’ 14th MLS season.