Arena, who also will serve as the coach of the 1996 U.S. men's Olympic team, is leaving Virginia after 18 years at the helm of the Cavaliers. He led Virginia to five national titles, including a record four straight between 1991 and 1994. A quest for a fifth straight title ended Dec. 8 when the Cavs were upset by ACC rival Duke 3-2 in the NCAA Division I semifinals.
"Bruce's record speaks for itself," said D.C. United general manager Kevin Payne. "He built the program at Virginia and then took it to another level."
Payne said he had four criteria for the team's first coach: a coach with a winning tradition, a demonstrated ability to produce teams fans would pay to see, a profound knowledge of American players and credibility in the Washington area market.
Arena, who will be replaced at Virginia by assistant coach George Gelnovatch, joins two former Cavalier stars at D.C. United: John Harkes and Jeff Agoos.
"I left the best college job in the country to come here -- which tells you that I believe in this," Arena said. "We did a lot for college soccer and for soccer in this country to a certain degree. We demonstrated to the public that Americans can play soccer. I now feel that the national team and Major League Soccer will take over at this point in time."
Arena is expected to move the U.S. Olympic team from his base in California to D.C. United's training facility in suburban Virginia in the spring. No announcement on his assistant has been made, but it is expected to be Princeton head coach Bob Bradley, who served as Arena's assistant coach earlier in his tenure at Virginia.