The 43-year-old Nowak, the U.S. national team assistant coach since December 2006, succeeds Bob Bradley, who had been serving as head coach of the U-23s and is currently the head coach of the full national team.
"Qualifying for the Olympic Games is one of the major goals of our national team programs, and we believe Peter is the right man to lead our efforts," said U.S. Soccer President Sunil Gulati. "He is a proven winner as both a player and a coach at the highest levels, and his ability to mentor young players will be particularly valuable as we continue the process of developing teams that can be very competitive at the international level."
In addition to his duties helping prepare the U.S. team for Olympic qualifying, Nowak will continue to assist Bradley with the full national team. The preliminary round to the men's under-23 tournament commences in the Caribbean this month, with the final round of CONCACAF qualifying expected to take place early next year with the venues and dates to be determined.
Nowak is a former captain of the Polish national team. His professional playing career spanned 23 years and five countries. He made 24 international appearances for Poland, scoring three career goals. He was named Poland's Player of the Year in 1996 and served as captain of the national squad for three years.
Nowak was brought by Bradley to the expansion Chicago Fire in 1998, making an immediate impact as the Fire won the double in 1998 with MLS Cup and U.S. Open Cup titles. In five seasons with the Fire, Nowak was named to the MLS Best XI three times. He led the Fire to another Open Cup title in 2000.
Nowak was named head coach of D.C. United in January 2004. In his first year, Nowak led his team to a 3-2 victory in MLS Cup against the Kansas City Wizards after the team had finished no better than fourth in the Eastern Conference for the previous four years. In three years with United, it had a 42-27-25 regular-season record..