Major League Soccer announced on Monday that Sounders FC General Manager & President of Soccer Garth Lagerwey is the winner of its 2019 Sporting Executive of the Year.
Lagerwey, who is currently in Mexico City, Mexico for the 2020 Scotiabank Concacaf Champions League Draw on Monday night, expressed his gratitude for the accolade, noting that it’s a reflection of the organization’s success over many years.
“The fact that it’s voted on by my peers means a lot,” said Lagerwey. “To be recognized by your colleagues as someone who’s done a good job is really important and a really healthy source of affirmation. That said, anytime you win an executive of anything, it’s a reflection of the organization as a whole.
“It’s a reflection, too, of the willingness of ownership to invest in long-term, strategic projects. Ultimately, when you do that, it allows for consistent high performance. Obviously, we were fortunate enough to win [MLS Cup] this year, but these awards, I think, are more reflective of bodies of work.”
Lagerwey’s accomplishments, which include two MLS Cup titles and three trips to the final since he took the helm in 2015, extend beyond the First Team’s success on the pitch. Adopting a philosophical approach that prioritizes sustained success through investing in Sounders Academy the Tacoma Defiance, Lagerwey has overseen tremendous growth in the club’s player development infrastructure.
Never one to rest on his laurels, Lagerwey views success on the continental stage as the next frontier for the Sounders organization.
“You can always accomplish more,” he said. “We’re going to enter Champions League and that’s an incredibly high mountain to climb. Nobody [from MLS] has ever done it.”
Lagerwey has spoken at length about how the core of the squad has reached the mature point of its cycle, with players like Raúl Ruidíaz and Nicolás Lodeiro leading the club to MLS Cup titles while in the prime of their careers. In order to continue to compete for trophies across all competitions, the next step is to accelerate the integration of the club’s talented young prospects into the First Team setup.
“We were last in the league last year in minutes played by players under 23,” noted Lagerwey. “That’s a reflection of where we are in our cycle. We’ve talked about being at the mature point, being title ready and having shoved all our chips into the middle of the table in an effort to win [MLS Cup] last year. Fortunately for us, we did. But I think then one of the points of emphasis for us this year is: how do we transition and incorporate some of these younger players?”
As the recipient of the 2019 MLS Sporting Executive of the Year, there’s no denying Lagerwey’s status in the upper echelon of GM’s in the league. While that award is certainly warranted given his unparalleled success, he wants to continue to evolve in ways that continue to push the club forward.
“I want to keep learning,” said Lagerwey. “As soon you say you know everything, you’re lost.”