Atlanta United have officially announced Garth Lagerwey as their new CEO and president.
Lagerwey joins Atlanta following an incredible eight-year reign with the Seattle Sounders, where he helped establish the club as a regional heavyweight with two MLS Cup titles and two further final appearances, as well as the 2022 Concacaf Champions League.
The news of Lagerwey's arrival in Atlanta comes less than a week after he was retained by a vote of Seattle Sounders club members. The 49-year-old replaces Darren Eales, who left for Newcastle United in August.
“I see the opportunity to lead Atlanta United as a dream come true for me,” Lagerwey said in a club press release.
“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.”
Lagerwey has a big task on his hands at Mercedes-Benz Stadium. Atlanta United have failed to make the MLS Cup Playoffs in two of the last three seasons, but are a high-spending club whose fans expect nothing less than the sort of success they enjoyed between 2017 and 2019 - when the Five Stripes won MLS Cup, US Open Cup, and Campeones Cup titles.
However, major roster turnover needs to happen if Atlanta are to become a truly competitive force again, while a new goalscorer will be needed with iconic striker Josef Martinez also set to leave the club this winter.
Lagerwey is well equipped for the task, however, having overseen Real Salt Lake's 2009 MLS Cup win as vice president and GM prior to his time in Seattle.
“Our foundational goal from day one in Major League Soccer has been for Atlanta United to be a contender for MLS Cup each year, so we set out to find a leader with deep knowledge and experience in the league and a proven track record of success,” said AMBSE CEO, Steve Cannon.
“We have certainly found that leader in Garth Lagerwey and could not be more thrilled to have him take the reins of our team. His body of work in Seattle and Salt Lake City speaks for itself. His experience as a player in the league and time as an executive who has developed a keen understanding of both the soccer and business sides of running an organization made him the perfect fit as we move forward with Atlanta United.”
While the appointment of Lagerwey can be seen as a huge step forward for Atlanta United, it will be viewed very differently back in Seattle, with the Sounders reeling after failing to make the MLS Cup Playoffs for the first time in club history last season.
The former goalkeeper's departure will force a huge reshuffle in the Sounders front office at a time when Brian Schmetzer's side is still very much expected to deliver year-on-year success.
“I’d like to thank Garth for all he’s done for Sounders FC over the past eight seasons,” said Sounders owner Adrian Hanauer. “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."
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