The Sounders FC formally announced Craig Waibel as the club’s new senior vice president of soccer operations and sporting director.

Waibel, 45, has spent the past two decades in pro soccer, including 11 seasons as a player where he won four MLS Cup championships and a four-year stint as Real Salt Lake’s general manager. Waibel’s RSL teams made three postseason appearances.

Waibel replaces Chris Henderson, who left in January for a similar position with Inter Miami CF. Henderson, a Cascade High alum, was hired by the Sounders in 2008 and led the club to four U.S. Open Cups, four Cascadia Cups, two MLS Cups and one Supporters’ Shield.

“Craig Waibel is uniquely qualified to make us better,” Garth Lagerwey, the club’s general manager and president of soccer, said in a news release. “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.”

A Portland native who graduated from Spokane’s Lewis and Clark High School, Waibel played for the Huskies and for the USL Sounders. He also worked with Lagerwey when the latter was with RSL, succeeding him in 2015. Waibel and RSL parted ways in September 2019 after a lawsuit involving former head coach Mike Petke stated Waibel was critical of then owner Dell Loy Hansen. The latter recently sold the team after allegations of making racist remarks.

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Waibel remained in the city and provided consultation to clubs the past year.

“I’m very excited to return to the Pacific Northwest and join one of the most successful organizations in MLS,” Waibel said in a news release. “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.”

 Waibel was a defender for the Colorado Rapids, LA Galaxy, San Jose Earthquakes and Houston Dynamo. He tallied 175 MLS appearances, bagging eight goals and 16 assists, including postseason appearances. In addition to the league championships, Waibel was part of clubs that collected a Supporters’ Shield (2012) and one U.S. Open Cup (2001).

“He knows our league well,” Sounders coach Brian Schmetzer said in a news release. “I look forward to working with him and utilizing his experience as a player, coach and front office member within our technical staff.”