Player Details


Steven Birnbaum




6' 1"


176 lbs

Date of Birth

1.23.1991 (33)


Newport, CA, USA



Position Detail

Central Defender

Preferred Side




Roster Category

Career Summary

MLS Experience 

2021: D.C. United’s captain was sidelined for the first 12 matches of the season after undergoing two ankle surgeries to rehabilitate an injury he sustained in 2020. The initial surgery was in January 2021 with the second operation in March that year. Birnbaum returned to the lineup on July 17 against the Philadelphia Union. Since his return, the center back made 21 appearances (18 starts), scored two goals, and recorded one assist in 1,617 minutes played. Birnbaum also achieved the impressive milestone of reaching 200 total MLS appearances since joining the club in 2014. The captain's achievement occurred on October 27 at Audi Field in the team’s 1-0 victory over the New York Red Bulls. Birnbaum was named to the MLS Team of the Week in weeks 27 and 33.

2020: The D.C. United Captain and center-back appeared and started 10 matches in 2020 after suffering multiple injuries. His one assist of the season came during the MLS is Back Tournament in Orlando on July 13. He headed the ball back across goal to Frédéric Brillant, who headed home the equalizing goal against Toronto FC in stoppage time. Despite the time missed due to injury, Birnbaum still won the third most aerial duels on the team with 43 while winning 74.1% of those aerial duels.

2019: Following an impressive season in 2018, Birnbaum once again showcased his durability for the Black-and-Red. Birnbaum started every regular season match for the second consecutive season and was only substituted once. The defender led MLS in headed clearances (109) and aerials won (177), while helping United to a league-high 14 clean sheets. Birnbaum made his 150th regular season game for the Black-and-Red in the 2-2 draw against the New England Revolution on July 12. The California native made MLS Team of the Week after opening the scoring for United in the 2-1 victory over Orlando on March 31. Birnbaum also recorded his first assist since 2016 in the 3-2 victory over the Colorado Rapids on April 13.

2018: The fifth-year center back set new career-highs in 2018, including starting all 34 MLS regular season games and setting a club record after playing every minute (3,060 minutes) of the season; beating Bobby Boswell who previously held the record with 3,045 minutes played in the 2014 season. Birnbaum showed his aerial dominance again in 2018, leading the league in total clearances (217), headed clearances (120), and aerials won (173). Birnbaum’s defensive resurgence was key in United conceding just 11 goals in their final 14 games this season. Birnbaum also contributed two goals over the course of the season; his second was the lone goal in a crucial 1-1 draw on Sept. 8 against NYCFC. This season also marked the fourth time the defender made an appearance in the MLS Cup Playoffs. Birnbaum was named a member of the MLS Team of the Week for Week 28 and Week 34, with both appearances coming after standout performances against NYCFC.

2017: In his fourth MLS season, Birnbaum became the club’s 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.

2016: 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.

2015: 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.

2014: After starting the year as a reserve, Birnbaum finished the season as an MLS Rookie of the Year finalist. He started in the final 21 games for United, replacing the injured Jeff Parke on June 7 in a match against the Columbus Crew at FedEx Field. The defender 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).

College Experience

Steve Birnbaum was a standout performer for the Golden Bears during his collegiate career. At UC Berkeley, Birnbaum made 72 appearances in four seasons. As a freshman, the defender made 17 appearances (eight starts) for the Golden Bears. During his sophomore season, Birnbaum recorded five assists and scored his first goal in college against Oregon State. In his third season, Birnbaum became a team captain and started 16 games. After redshirt- ing for a season, Birnbaum returned for an impressive senior season. The California native finished with 10 goals in 20 appearances.

  • Herman Trophy Semifinalist (2013), 
  • NSCAA FIrst Team All-American (2013)
  • NSCAA First Team All-Far-West Team (2013) 
  • All Pac-12 First Team (2013)
  • All-Pac-12 First Team (2011)

International Experience

Birnbaum competed for the United States U-18 and U-20 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. The California native made his senior debut for USMNT during a 3-2 loss to Chile on Jan. 29, 2015. The defender scored his first international goal during a 3-2 victory over Iceland on Jan. 31, 2016. During the 2017 Copa America Birnbaum made two appearances for the United States, but they were defeated by Argentina in the semi- finals. He made seven more appearances for the USMNT in 2016, playing in both World Cup Qualifiers. Overall he has made 11 appearances for USMNT contributing with a goal and an assist.