In his fourth MLS season, Birnbaum became the club’s team captain after dominant performances during his career in the United backline. The 26-year-old continued to be a staple in the Black-and-Red defense, leading the team’s defenders in clearances (127), interceptions (40) and minutes (2,246). The California native appeared in 26 matches (25 starts), marking the fourth consecutive season in which he made at least 21 starts.
The third-year defender from California played in his most productive season yet in 2016, setting career highs in appearances, starts, minutes, goals, assists and shots while being named to his first MLS All-Star Game. Birnbaum started 2016 off strong, making his international debut for the U.S. Men’s National Team on Jan. 28 before scoring his first international goal several days later on Jan. 31 (a game-winner against Iceland). Birnbaum was also named to Jurgen Klinsmann’s squad for the Copa America Centenario over the summer and World Cup Qualifiers in March and September. He scored goals in back-to-back matches (8/06 and 8/13) and his third (and career-high) against the New York Red Bulls on 9/11.
The 2014 MLS Rookie of the Year finalist made 22 appearances (21 starts) in his second MLS season and scored the first goals of his career. He scored for the first time at Alajuelense in Costa Rica in the quarterfinals of the 2014-15 Scotiabank CONCACAF Champions League. Birnbaum also scored his first career regular season goal against Toronto FC on June 6, then tallied a game-tying goal in a 1-1 draw at Colorado on Sept. 12. He also made appearances in the Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup and the 2015-16 Scotiabank CONCACAF Champions League.
After starting the year as a reserve, Birnbaum finished the season as an MLS Rookie of the Year finalist, starting in the final 21 games for United after replacing the injured Jeff Parke on June 7 against the Columbus Crew at FedEx Field. The Irvine, Calif., native became the fifth D.C. United rookie of the year finalist in six seasons, joining Chris Pontius (2009 finalist), Andy Najar (2010 Rookie of the Year), Perry Kitchen (2011 finalist) and Nick DeLeon (2012 finalist).
Birnbaum was one of three team captains for Cal in 2013. He was a Missouri Athletic Club Herman Trophy Semifinalist, named a NSCAA First Team All-American, NSCAA First Team All-Far-West Team, College Soccer News First Team All-American selection, All Pac-12 first team, Pac-12 All-Academic honorable mention and Soccer News Net College Boot Player of the Year Finalist. He started and played 19 games at central defense for the Bears and finished the season with 10 goals and one assist. Birnbaum helped lead the Bears to the NCAA tournament quarterfinals in 2013. Started in all 20 games for the Bears in 2010 and finished the season with one goal and five assists.
YOUTH INTERNATIONAL EXPERIENCE
Birnbaum competed for the U.S. U-18 and U-20 National Team squads in tournaments in Portugal and Mexico in 2008. He was a part of the U.S. squad that competed against Manchester United in the 2008 Milk Cup Final. Birnbaum won a silver medal with the U.S. team in the 2012 Pan Am Maccabi games in Brazil.
January 16, 2014: Selected in the first round (2nd overall) of 2014 MLS SuperDraft.
December 2, 2016 - United re-sign the defender to a multi-year contract.