WATCH: Monica Pearson One on One with Atlanta United’s Carlos Bocanegra

Top soccer executive reflects on his career and fatherhood

ATLANTA, Ga. (CBS46) - Carlos Bocanegra is a top executive for one of Atlanta’s hottest sports team and a member of the National Soccer Hall of Fame.

But he’s also proud of being a father.

Bocanegra, vice president and technical director of Atlanta United, told Peachtree TV’s Monica Pearson that successful parenting can be one of life’s greatest accomplishments.

“I’ve been fortunate to have quite a few [accomplishments] in my life,” Bocanegra said. “It’s interesting, as your kids start to grow up, to see are they behaved [and] do they have good values?

“What are you putting into them that they kind of transcend through you? Then they’re like little versions of you out in the out in the world. If they’re acting properly and they have respect and they’re treating people right, that can be a great accomplishment.”

Bocanegra, a California native, joined Atlanta United during one of Major League Soccer’s (MLS) most impressive expansion seasons. Under his leadership, the Five Stripes won the MLS Cup in 2018; the U.S. Open Cup in 2019; and became the first-ever MLS team to win the Campeones Cup, also in 2019. In 2020, Bocanegra was inducted to the National Soccer Hall of Fame.

“My older brother played [soccer] in Southern California, and then my parents were like, ‘you’re going to go in there next,’” he recalled. “My mom was our coach. We were five years old, so they’re just herding cats more than anything out there. But we loved it and it was just something they wanted us to be active. Baseball, soccer, basketball ... we played all sports. And in California, you can be outside year round, so soccer was picked up quite often.”

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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 playing career that began at age 5 eventually earned Bocanegra an induction into the National Soccer Hall of Fame at age 42.

Team sports, Bocanegra said, teach life skills such as leadership.

“How are you acting in a team environment, dealing with winning, dealing with losing and adversity? You take those lessons from a team sport and [apply them] in life, when you’re working in a group or you have to work with people [with whom] you don’t always agree.

“And I’ve got my kids in team sports and they can go play whatever they want, and it helps [teach] them a lot of life lessons.”

Bocanegra’s daughter is into basketball, gymnastics and cheer, while his two sons play baseball, basketball and soccer.

“Be active,” Bocanegra tells his children. “We don’t mind what you guys do. We just want you to be healthy, be active, get out there and have fun.”

Bocanegra said his parenting style has similarities and differences from his parents.

“I remember my dad yanked me off the football field,” he recalled. “I was playing high school football, and he said, ‘Your math grades have been low. We’ve talked about this. You’re not going back out there until you get your grades up. So you can either come early to school and start going to study hard with math to get better. And we’ll let you practice and play as your grades come up or you’re off the team.’ So it was, you can’t have one without the other.

“So with my kids at the moment, it’s more, we need to make sure you have a good work ethic. And if they’re committing to something, they’ve got to follow through, even if it’s not their favorite thing to do.”

Monica Pearson’s Fathers Day profiles

Monica Pearson: One on One is a new, interview-themed series featuring the legendary Atlanta journalist.

Tim Darnell

Tim Darnell

Tim Darnell is the Investigative Digital Content Producer for CBS46.