Sounders FC Names Craig Waibel Senior Vice President of Soccer Operations & Sporting Director
SEATTLE, WASH. - Sounders FC today announced that Craig Waibel has been hired as the club's new Senior Vice President of Soccer Operations & Sporting Director. Waibel has spent the last two decades in professional soccer, including a 12-year playing career with four MLS Cup titles, and a four-year stint as Real Salt Lake's General Manager with three postseason appearances. A University of Washington graduate and former Sounders player, Waibel reunites with General Manager & President of Soccer Garth Lagerwey, with whom he worked at RSL. In his new role, Waibel assists 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," said Lagerwey. "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."
"I'm very excited to return to the Pacific Northwest and join one of the most successful organizations in MLS," said Waibel. "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 and doing what I can to continue the success that they, and others have already built here."
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 (2012) and one Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup (2001).
"We always strive to bring competent, talented people to the organization and it's a bonus if they have ties to this club and community, so I'd like to officially welcome Craig back to Seattle." said Sounders FC Head Coach Brian Schmetzer. "He knows our league well, and I look forward to working with him and utilizing his experience as a player, coach and front office member within our technical staff."
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. He then joined Real Salt Lake in 2014 as an Assistant Coach before being promoted to Technical Director in 2015, eventually taking over as General Manager following Lagerwey's departure to Sounders FC. Waibel served in that GM 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. He returns to the Pacific Northwest with his wife Julie, who grew up in Bellevue, and his 11-year-old daughter Jocelyn.
Sounders FC plays its final two preseason matches of 2021 on Sunday, April 4 vs. Phoenix Rising FC and Saturday, April 10 vs. San Diego Loyal SC. The 2021 Major League Soccer regular season begins Friday, April 16 with the Rave Green hosting Minnesota United FC (6:30 p.m. PT / FS1) in a rematch of last season's Western Conference Final.
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