SEATTLE, WASH. – Sounders FC today appointed Craig Waibel as the club’s new General Manager & Chief Soccer Officer. Waibel has served as Seattle’s Senior Vice President of Soccer Operations & Sporting Director since April of 2021 after previously holding the General Manager position at Real Salt Lake from 2015-2019. Waibel now oversees all areas of the club’s soccer operations, encompassing the First Team, Tacoma Defiance and Sounders FC Academy. A University of Washington graduate and former Sounders player, Waibel replaces Garth Lagerwey, who was recently named President & CEO of Atlanta United.
“Congratulations to Craig on his new position, we’re thrilled for him to step into the General Manager and Chief Soccer Officer position as the next leader of our soccer operations,” said Sounders FC Owner Adrian Hanauer. “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. 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.”
“I am excited to get to work as the new General Manager of Seattle Sounders FC, this is a special organization and I embrace the high expectations that this club has of itself,” said Waibel. “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. Lastly, I couldn’t be happier to continue to work with Coach Schmetzer and help bring more trophies to Seattle.”
Following Hanauer (2009-2014) and Lagerwey (2015-2022), Waibel becomes the third General Manager in Sounders FC’s MLS history. Originally hired on April 1, 2021, Waibel assisted Lagerwey in all areas of soccer operations over the past two seasons, including scouting, player identification, player management and the club’s overall development system. In his time with Seattle, the club has achieved unprecedented continental success, finishing second in the 2021 Leagues Cup before becoming the first MLS team to ever win the Concacaf Champions League in 2022. Waibel was integral to the historic free-agent signing of Albert Rusnák last offseason, a player that he originally brought to MLS in 2017 while with RSL. On the development front, Tacoma Defiance had a breakout year in the inaugural 2022 MLS NEXT Pro season, winning the Pacific Division and finishing second in the Western Conference before falling in the Western Conference Final.
“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 Head Coach Brian 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.”
Waibel joined Real Salt Lake in 2014 as an Assistant Coach before being promoted to Technical Director and eventually taking over as General Manager in 2015, serving in that role through the 2019 MLS season. Under his guidance, RSL reached the postseason in three of his four seasons as GM and cultivated an increase in youth development, with RSL Homegrown Players accounting for over 10,000 minutes in both 2018 and 2019.
A graduate of Lewis and Clark High School in Spokane, Waibel played collegiate soccer at the University of Washington from 1995 through 1998. He began his pro career with the Seattle Sounders of the A-League for two seasons before an accomplished 11-year run in MLS with the Colorado Rapids, LA Galaxy, San Jose Earthquakes and Houston Dynamo. The defender tallied 175 MLS appearances, eight goals and 16 assists (including postseason play), in addition to winning four MLS Cups (2002, 2003, 2006, 2007), one Supporters’ Shield (2002) and one Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup (2001). Following his retirement with the Houston Dynamo in 2010, Waibel spent one year on the Michigan Wolverines coaching staff before a two-year stint under Head Coach Jamie Clark at his alma mater Washington. In October of 2021, Waibel became the first Washington men's soccer player inducted into the Husky Hall of Fame.
Waibel currently lives on Bainbridge Island with his wife Julie, who grew up in Bellevue, and their daughter Jocelyn.
Sounders FC finished the 2022 campaign with a 16-17-5 record across all competitions. The Rave Green became the first MLS side to win the Concacaf Champions League title in the spring, before a regular season that fell short of the Audi MLS Cup Playoffs for the first time in the club’s 14-year history. Seattle heads into the offseason with its sights set on the 2023 campaign, which begins with the FIFA Club World Cup. Prior to the start of 2023, Sounders FC has a team-record four current players participating in the ongoing FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022™.
Emerald City Pack
This pack includes a ticket to our first three home matches of the 2023 season and a special limited-run Sounders FC World Cup themed scarf.