PORTLAND, Ore. – Portland Thorns FC have appointed former Thorns FC goalkeeper and current Head of Women’s Football for Concacaf Karina LeBlanc as their general manager, it was announced today.
LeBlanc, 41, will be responsible for the overall management of the technical soccer operations of the club, reporting directly to owner and CEO Merritt Paulson. She will serve as the central leader for Thorns FC on all soccer aspects while also having an integral voice on key business decisions related to the club, helping to create, cultivate and manage the culture of Thorns FC.
“I could not be more excited to welcome Karina back to Portland,” said Thorns FC owner and CEO Merritt Paulson. “The global soccer network she has fostered during her career has perfectly positioned her to lead the Thorns, and it is hard to think of anyone with a more innate leadership ability and unique blend of skills than Karina.
“She will make an impact in the Portland community and help push the NWSL forward, as well as strengthen our influence and standard in the international game. Lastly, I am grateful to Victor Montagliani and Concacaf for fully supporting Karina in making this change.”
Since 2018, LeBlanc has been the Head of Women’s Football for Concacaf, overseeing the efforts of 41 confederations across North America, Central America and the Caribbean Islands to strengthen and grow the women’s game. In her position, LeBlanc has focused on developing women’s soccer throughout the region by increasing opportunities for women in soccer across multiple areas including through grassroots and competitions platforms, development and coaching initiatives, and administration. She launched the Women’s Football strategy in 2019 and was a key part and voice of the Concacaf’s new women’s ecosystem.
“When I left in 2014, I felt there was unfinished business for me here. The way the community, the club and the team made me feel, was something that I would never forget. I thought I might come back as a player, but never in my wildest dreams did I think that I would be coming back as the general manager of what is for me, the greatest club in the world. My experience as a Thorn helped shape me into the woman I am today,” said LeBlanc.
“It is hard to leave my Concacaf family. I’d like to thank Victor [Montagliani] for creating a role for myself that allowed me to learn and grow. I know women’s football will continue to be a major priority at Concacaf. I am proud of how we were able to move the game forward. I loved the work I did there, but I missed being around the game, players and the energy of Portland. This is an opportunity to do something that truly matters for a city, a club and a league that’s given me so much. To have the belief of Merritt, the players, and the staff made me realize that this was an opportunity I had to lean into.”
A stalwart in the global soccer community and throughout Canada, she founded the Karina LeBlanc Foundation in 2018, seeking to empower young girls and women. Donations to her foundation provides young women with scholarships in her community as well as grants that provide girls with the opportunity to attend camps to enhance their skills in sports and other activities. In 2013, she became the first female professional soccer player to be appointed a UNICEF Canada Ambassador and is also an Honorary Captain of the Royal Canadian Navy. She has also worked with the FIFA Women’s Leadership Program, while serving as a motivational speaker and on-air personality across various television networks.
New Thorns GM Karina LeBlanc on her journey to joining the club
Across 18 years at the international level with Canada, LeBlanc played in five FIFA Women’s World Cups and two Summer Olympics, winning a bronze medal at the 2012 London Olympics. She retired in 2015 after making 110 appearances (108 starts), helping lead Canada to CONCACAF Championships in 1998 and 2010 and a fourth-place finish at the 2003 FIFA Women’s World Cup.
“With Karina the sky is the limit. I’ve never met someone more passionate and set on growing the game,” said former teammate and current Thorns FC captain Christine Sinclair. “To have her back in Portland for me is a dream come true because she is going to take this club to places I don’t think people think are possible. She’s going to help this club be the benchmark for women’s football around the world and I just can’t wait to get started.”
Allocated to Thorns FC ahead of the club’s inaugural 2013 NWSL campaign, LeBlanc helped Portland win the NWSL Championship in its first season. During the 2013 campaign, LeBlanc started and played in 21 of the club’s 22 regular-season matches, recording seven shutouts, while making 92 saves with a 1.10 goals-against average and a record of 11-5-5.
LeBlanc played in the first women’s professional soccer league in the United States the Women’s United Soccer Association (WUSA) with the Boston Breakers from 2001-03 as well as Women’s Professional Soccer (WPS) with several teams, while concluding her NWSL career in 2014 and 2015 with the Chicago Red Stars. A graduate of the University of Nebraska, she earned a bachelor’s degree in business administration and management.
“I have learned that in trying to live a life of purpose, the things that are meant for you will come to you,” said LeBlanc. “My dream is that together we take this club to new levels which inspires us all to be the best version of ourselves.”
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