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Karina LeBlanc named Thorns FC General Manager

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The former Thorns goalkeeper and Canadian international leaves her position with Concacaf to become the GM of Portland Thorns FC.

Photo by Craig Mitchelldyer/Portland Thorns

Portland Thorns FC announced today that former Thorns goalkeeper and Head of Women’s Football for Concacaf, Karina LeBlanc, has been named as the Portland Thorns’ general manager. This announcement signals that former general manager Gavin Wilkinson, who was on administrative leave, will no longer hold responsibility in the Thorns organization.

“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.”

Leblanc will be responsible for the management and technical soccer operations for Thorns FC and will report directly to Thorns FC owner and CEO Merritt Paulson. LeBlanc will be the central leader for the Thorns in all soccer aspects and will have an important voice in the club’s business decisions.

“I could not be more excited to welcome Karina back to Portland,” said 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,” Paulson continued. “Lastly, I am grateful to Victor Montagliani and Concacaf for fully supporting Karina in making this change.”

LeBlanc has served as the Head of Women’s Football for Concacaf since 2018. She oversaw the strengthening and growth of the women’s game in 41 confederations across North America, Central American and the Caribbean Islands. She also launched the Women’s Football Strategy in 2019.

“It is hard to leave my Concacaf family,” said LeBlanc. “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.”

LeBlanc was allocated to the Thorns ahead of the club’s first season in 2013. She helped the Thorns win the NWSL Championship in the Thorns’ inaugural season and recorded seven shutouts throughout the campaign. LeBlanc played in five World Cups and two Olympics with Canada. She won a bronze medal at the Olympics in 2012 and retired in 2015 after making 110 international appearances.

LeBlanc founded the Karina LeBlanc Foundation in 2018 which focuses its efforts on empowering young girls and women. She became the first female professional soccer player to be appointed a UNICEF Canada Ambassador in 2013 and is also an Honorary Captain of the Royal Canadian Navy. LeBlanc has also worked with the FIFA Women’s Leadership Program and has served as a motivational speaker and as an on-air personality across multiple television networks.

“With Karina the sky is the limit,” said Thorns FC captain Christine Sinclair. “I’ve never met someone more passionate and set on growing the game. 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.”

The full release is available here.