Garth Lagerwey reflects on his first eight years as Sounders GM

By with reference to any cheap same old, Garth Lagerwey’s eight seasons as Seattle Sounders basic supervisor and President of Soccer have long past about as smartly as someone will have was hoping. He’s helped ship two MLS Cups, led the Sounders to 6 cup finals in 3 other competitions and, in fact, scaled the regional mountaintop via changing into the first MLS staff to win Concacaf Champions League.

Beyond the first staff luck, the Sounders have additionally laid the root for long term achievements throughout the academy and Tacoma Defiance. He hasn’t gotten actually each resolution proper, however the total route of the staff turns out as sturdy as it has ever been.

As Lagerwey enters his 2nd retention vote, now appeared like as just right of a time as any to invite him to mirror on the former eight years and to sit up for what would possibly occur over the following 4. Seattle obviously has a unique position in his middle, despite the fact that it received’t be his final forestall. There is clearly no make sure that he’ll be round that lengthy, however he does appear bullish on each the way forward for the Sounders and MLS.

Here are one of the crucial highlights:

Lagerwey has been constant since his hiring that he would possibly not love the uncertainty that incorporates enthusiasts casting a binding vote on his process efficiency, however he indubitably appreciates the method and considers it a foundational a part of the Sounders group.

“I experience it holistically in that it’s a very powerful a part of the Sounders. The pragmatic side is that the vote may move badly. But this isn’t about me in my opinion. You have to place it into context. If you’re the GM of the Sounders, you’re the steward of the membership and a part of this just about 50-year historical past. It’s a part of the process. It is original.

“It’s hard to completely divorce yourself personally because if we lose the vote, our family has to move and we lose all our friends and our school and all the cool things that come with living in Seattle. But I also realize no one cares about that, nor should they. It’s personal to me in that sense, but you do have to look at the big picture.”

Lagerwey has been doing this process for 15 years now, courting to his time with Real Salt Lake when he was once lured clear of a comfortable process as a legal professional at a Fortune 500 company and may simply do one thing other if he sought after. His viewpoint has advanced, however whilst the day by day paintings might nonetheless be slightly of a grind he unearths nice pleasure in bigger-picture facets of the process.

“I paintings for a children’ sport they usually pay me for it. I pinch myself each every now and then, I comic story with my spouse that ‘I get to watch tv tonight.’ It’s a just right gig.

“Eight years in, the excellent news is we’ve had some luck. The different aspect of it’s you do it for lengthy sufficient, the place the moles are, too. What’s amusing is operating on the folk with the football aspect, the 40 folks right here and the way we got here throughout the pandemic, who have been the frontline staff. That’s the type of stuff this is its personal praise. Yes, it’s a amusing process.

“There’s no other place in America — except, maybe Atlanta — that you can put this crowd together and to do it twice in four years [in addition to MLS Cup 2019], it was a spiritual experience. People are literally swaying back and forth but it was a shared moment we collectively had together and then we score the third goal and you thought the building was going to collapse. That will be with me forever. I can’t imagine having a memory that’s better than that. My family was there with me. It was everything you ever hoped for. What do you work in sports for? It was that.”

The Sounders have been coming off a Supporters’ Shield-U.S. Open Cup double when Lagerwey joined the staff from RSL. Improving issues was once now not going to be a very simple process. Lagerwey took on the problem as a result of he noticed room for enlargement, and that was once in serving to the Sounders move from an excellent staff into a perfect “club.”

“We had a body of workers of eleven folks at RSL. I got here in right here and Chris [Henderson] will have sunk me or made me. He was once improbable for Day 1, he didn’t need to do any of that, I used to be the brand new man imposed on him. I labored out that he’s an elite ability evaluator, and I had completed that at Salt Lake, however what’s the only factor I will do for him since he’s completed me greater than a cast? I’m going to stay him doing what he’s doing, and I’m going to empower him to head additional with it. I will paintings more difficult and make myself 2-5% higher however now that I’m on the Sounders and we’ve 40 folks, the actual systematic distinction is you’ll be able to make eight division heads 2-5% higher? Now the group is 40% higher.

“This was once a football staff once I got here right here, however we’ve constructed a football membership. I don’t imply that during a derogatory way to what got here sooner than, however we’ve invested on many alternative ranges and platforms. Ownership took a possibility with that and made vital investments on issues folks don’t see, and it’s price my making a song the praises of the possession right here in that they’ve constantly reinvested the enthusiasts’ heard-earned a reimbursement into the membership and completed it in strategic ways in which will likely be a longterm receive advantages to the membership.

It’s no secret that Lagerwey could have choices out of doors of Seattle if he needs them. Atlanta United is searching for a membership president and has stated they intend to a minimum of communicate to Lagerwey. There are definitely different jobs that would trap him, particularly if they provide a degree of keep watch over he merely doesn’t have right here. But Lagerwey additionally insists that he has fallen in love with Seattle. More than that, his kinfolk loves it right here. He joked that he feels as even though he’s even discovered his “tribe,” in fellow sci-fi and comedian guide “nerds” that still occur to like football.

“Seattle is superior the neighborhood is superior, pals and faculties … we’ve a just right lifestyles. That way so much. And the kinfolk’s happiness is so much. Yes, there’s at all times going to be profession issues however you at all times need to weigh that in opposition to kinfolk. Going again to after we got here right here, there was once every other membership that had floated the theory of me changing into the CEO there, and purely career-wise that was once possibly the precise selection however family-wise this was once the precise selection. Family has some way of informing that. That’s the precise steadiness. If you wish to have to feel free and feature amusing days, I believe that is going a ways. We’ll have to peer the way it performs out.

“I’ve done interviews about the Avengers, Dungeons & Dragons, long conversations about comic books and the MCU. For better or worse, this is my tribe I think.”

We nonetheless don’t know needless to say the place or when the following Club World Cup will likely be held. But despite the fact that it’s scheduled for early February and held within the United States, the Sounders would most effective play two or 3 video games. Lagerwey stated they aren’t going to make any plans explicitly designed to strengthen the roster for that. A larger a part of the making plans procedure, Lagerwey stated, is the impending Leagues Cup which could have its first expanded event subsequent summer time. He additionally doesn’t assume the Sounders gets any type of basic allocation cash or roster bonus to lend a hand them compete within the Club World Cup.

“I don’t know that [the Club World Cup] does. We don’t know when, the place and we don’t know when the switch home windows are going to be. If the switch home windows are coated up like this 12 months and it’s performed in early February, there’s a situation the place we will be able to’t signal any further gamers. I believe we’ll discover a resolution, however that’s the extent of the place we’re at relating to making plans. There’s a ton of uncertainty round it. I don’t know greater than you. We don’t have anything in writing in regards to the event. It’s two to 3 video games. Are you to signal a participant for 2 to 3 video games?

“I believe the solution goes to be not anything [as far as new resources from MLS]. We had 3 years of a flat wage cap and since we stored successful, we driven all that wage into subsequent 12 months. You can undo that, there’s at all times issues you’ll be able to do, however you’re going to need to steadiness the probabilities of successful the Club World Cup. I’m now not positive how most probably this is. Do you move all in for 2 video games?

“The MLS season fundamentally changes next season. The structure of the season — 34 regular-season games, plus potentially seven Leagues Cup games, plus Open Cup, plus playoffs [plus CCL]. You’re probably playing, at least a good team, 45 games at a minimum. Literally a [UEFA] Champions League schedule every single season. We could be in the 50s. It fundamentally changes how you approach the season. You have to play more players, you have to rotate more and you have to evolve. [UCL teams] don’t play 13 guys 60 times. We have to do the same thing.”

Lagerwey has been open in regards to the Sounders successfully going all in on the Champions League. The problem was once that the Sounders didn’t have the salary-cap area to do a lot in the summertime. Even as the Sounders head down the overall stretch of the season chasing a playoff spot, Lagerwey says he feels they made the precise selection.

“For higher or worse, I consider what I consider. I consider in participant building, I consider in taking part in younger gamers. We completed one thing no person has completed sooner than and no matter the price of this is I’ll pay. Does that imply I need to pass over the playoffs? No, and I don’t assume we will have to. There’s a situation the place we’re liked in each unmarried sport the remainder of the best way. That doesn’t make it simple, it’s very, very onerous, which is why web sites like 538 have us at a 29% probability as a result of we haven’t in the past received six in a row. But we’re indubitably in a position to that. As just lately as July 2 we have been taking part in at one of the crucial easiest clips post-Champions League. As just lately as final sport, we have been fielding seven Best XI gamers and that’s with out [João Paulo] and Cristian Roldan.

“It was once a check of religion. We had this plan, we knew the downsides and we’ve noticed the upsides. The upsides of successful Champions League kinda steeled us. We have been introduced gamers, however in the event you did it it will value us a starter subsequent 12 months. That was once it. If you consider the staff is truly just right and in the event you consider that you’ve got younger gamers which might be truly just right, it is going to play out.

“Danny Leyva and Josh Atencio had been superb for the simpler a part of two years. We’re going to make it or now not make it on the simpler a part of their efforts. We’ve surrounded them with 9 different veterans and put them ready to be successful.

Lagerwey might or now not nonetheless be with the Sounders by the point the 2026 World Cup rolls round, however he’s indubitably making plans to be operating in MLS. In reality, he unearths it nearly unusual that any league legit would imagine leaving sooner than the sector’s greatest football match returns to the United States and he’s a company believer that AppleTV’s streaming deal is the car to lend a hand ship a world target market.

“If you succeed in a in point of fact world target market via Apple, does that spur a majority of these different ecosystems to return to lifestyles round MLS? I believe persons are nonetheless eager about America and MLS hasn’t gotten the distinction it merits, which is why successful Champions League is so giant. It was once truly onerous however price attempting. I do assume that’s the first step. It’s now not the entire mountain, however you’ve climbed the mountain as soon as. Now it’s important to keep on best.

“The Leagues Cup goes to be superior for the profile of MLS. As we construct into the World Cup, football is most effective going to get larger, in the event you have a look at the valuations that experience constantly ticked up. I believe there’s going to be a ton of funding within the recreation and in Seattle particularly. If you have a look at the infrastructure round MLS, it’s truly thrilling.

“This is the wager. The complete ecosystem goes to develop and be increased. I believe we’ll see what it may be. I’m truly excited to be part of it.

“People ask if I want to go to Europe and I just can’t fathom going to Europe right now before the World Cup comes to America. Maybe I’m missing something, but it seems like an opportunity of a lifetime.”

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