Carlos Bocanegra was named Technical Director of Atlanta United on March 2, 2015. Amidst one of the most impressive expansion seasons in MLS history, as the club became the first expansion team to qualify for MLS Cup Playoffs since 2009, Bocanegra was promoted to Vice President and Technical Director on October 10, 2017. He signed a multi-year contract extension on Nov. 15, 2021. He established the club’s long-term curriculum and oversees all soccer operations, including player personnel and transactions, staff management and scouting for the First Team, ATL UTD 2 and Academy program. In 2020, Bocanegra was inducted to the National Soccer Hall of Fame.
Under Bocanegra’s leadership, Atlanta won MLS Cup in 2018, U.S. Open Cup in 2019 and became the first MLS team to win Campeones Cup in 2019. In addition to its two trophies during the 2019 season, Atlanta set an MLS record for most points by a defending champion (58). After missing the postseason during a pandemic shortened 2020 season, Atlanta again qualified for MLS Cup Playoffs in 2021, marking the fourth time in club history. It is one of only four Eastern Conference teams to qualify for four out of the last five MLS Cup Playoffs, joining NYCFC, New York Red Bulls and Philadelphia Union. The club has accumulated the third most points in MLS since joining the league in 2017 became only fourth-ever MLS team to qualify for Concacaf Champions League three years in a row (2019-2021).
Bocanegra spearheads Atlanta’s roster construction, which – prior to the club’s expansion season – established a model of acquiring younger Designated Players approaching their prime. The club signed its first Designated Player, Tito Villalba, in July of 2016 – six months before its first preseason and before it had announced a head coach. A few months later, Atlanta added a pair of breakthrough signings in Miguel Almirón and Josef Martínez. Almirón was MLS’ 2017 Newcomer of the Year and named to the league’s Best XI in each of his two seasons in Atlanta. The Paraguayan was sold to the Premier League’s Newcastle for an MLS record transfer fee in 2019. Martínez has been selected to MLS Best XI three times, twice named an All-Star and was the 2018 MLS MVP, MLS Cup MVP and Golden Boot winner after he broke the league’s single-season record with 31 goals. In 2021 Martínez became the fastest player in MLS history to reach 100 goals in all competitions. Overall, Atlanta has had more players selected to the MLS All-Star Game (15) since 2017 than any other club, with LAFC second with nine.
In the club’s historic expansion 2017 season, Bocanegra assembled a team that finished tied for fifth all-time in goals scored in a single-season (70) and fourth all-time in goal differential (+30). That was spearheaded by the signing of a trio of Designated Players in Martinez, Almirón and Villalba, who combined to score 41 goals – a higher total than five other MLS teams. Bocanegra also found success via other player acquisition mechanisms, drafting current U.S. Men’s National Team defender Miles Robinson and 2017 MLS Rookie of the Year Julian Gressel with the No. 2 and No. 8 overall selections in the 2017 MLS SuperDraft. The former USMNT defender also built a stout defense in the club’s expansion season, as the team allowed the fourth-fewest goals in MLS (40). Bocanegra started to build the backline in December of 2016, trading for center back Michael Parkhurst from Columbus Crew SC and signing left back Greg Garza on loan from Tijuana. Both players were named to the 2017 MLS All-Star Game.
Coming off a historic expansion season, Bocanegra continued to help push the club forward on its way to an extraordinary 2018 season that culminated by winning MLS Cup. The club also qualified for Concacaf Champions League after finishing with the best two-year aggregate record in all of MLS. Bocanegra assembled one of the most prolific attacks in league history, as Atlanta also became just the second team in MLS history to produce back-to-back 70-goal seasons, led by the 2018 MLS MVP Josef Martinez, who broke the league’s single-season scoring record. The team also had the second-best goal differential (+56) over a two-year span in league history, while setting a new league record for road wins (10) in the post-shootout era. The club finished 2018 with the second-highest points total (69) in league history.
Bocanegra also oversees the club’s Academy that began in 2016, a year before the MLS team played its first match. The Academy has produced 12 homegrown players and more than 40 players have signed with Division I NCAA programs. Standout defender George Bello became the first Atlanta United Homegrown to earn a call up to the senior U.S. Men’s National Team and he has six appearances, all coming in 2021, including the 2021 Gold Cup Final against Mexico.
Bocanegra was the lone member of the National Soccer Hall of Fame class of 2020 and is still heavily involved with the U.S. Soccer program, where he currently serves as the co-chair of the technical development committee that was established in April of 2018. He was also a board member for the joint United 2026 World Cup bid that was ultimately selected by FIFA to host the tournament.
A former captain of the United States Men’s National Team for six years, Bocanegra retired from play in 2014 after a 15-year career that included more than 200 career appearances in England, France and Scotland. A California native, Bocanegra attended collegiate soccer powerhouse UCLA and was drafted by the Chicago Fire in the 2000 MLS SuperDraft. In Chicago, he won the MLS Rookie of the Year Award in 2000 and back-to-back MLS Defender of the Year Awards in 2002 and 2003. The following year, he signed with English Premier League club Fulham where he played four seasons during which he became one of the few U.S. players to captain both club and country simultaneously. Following his time with Fulham, Bocanegra moved to France’s Ligue 1 where he played for Rennes and Saint-Etienne until he joined Rangers of the Scottish Premier League until 2013. In July 2013, he officially returned to MLS to play for Chivas USA, where he finished his career holding the all-time record for most international goals scored by a U.S. defender.
Internationally, Bocanegra was selected to the U.S. Men’s National Team for each of the 2006 and 2010 FIFA World Cups, where he appeared in six total matches. He’s tied for 11th all-time in U.S. Soccer history with 110 caps. He also helped lead the USMNT to two Gold Cup victories in 2002 and 2007 and he scored an impressive 14 goals during his international career. He served as captain for the U.S. team 64 times during his international career.