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Black History Month: The LeBlanc Effect

Karina LeBlanc was part of the rise of the Canadians from good to world class.

SOC-GOLD CUP-CANADA-US-LEBANC Photo credit should read JOHN G. MABANGLO/AFP via Getty Images

In soccer, it’s important to have a good goalkeeper. To have a great goalkeeper, however, can take you from good to great to the level of the world class. Canada is lucky that for 17 years, they had a world class goalkeeper in their ranks. That goalkeeper was Karina LeBlanc.

LeBlanc was born in the United States to a father from Dominica and a mother from Jamaica. However, she grew up in Dominica until she was 8 years old, when she moved to British Columbia, Canada. It wasn’t until she was 12 that Karina LeBlanc got into soccer, but she found quickly that she was a natural for the game. By 1997, she was considered one of the top 20 college recruits, despite the fact her high school didn’t have a girls soccer team.

She committed to play for the Nebraska Cornhuskers, and attended from 1997 to 2000. While she was in Lincoln, she became one of the most decorated players in the program’s history. In 2000, she was a finalist for the Hermann Trophy, given to the NCAA’s best player. Never had a goalkeeper even been in the mix for the award, but she was able to play her way into being a finalist. She was a 2-time All-Big 12 selection and was an All-American in her time at Nebraska.

During her club career, she played for the Boston Breakers in the Women’s United Soccer Association (WUSA); the Montreal Xtreme and the New Jersey Wildcats of the W-League; and the Los Angeles Sol, the Philadelphia Independence, and magicJack of Women’s Professional Soccer (WPS). She signed with Sky Blue FC in 2012 while the WPS still was in existence, however she never got to play with them, as the league folded before the start of the season.

Under the newly formed National Women’s Soccer League, LeBlanc was allocated to the Portland Thorns, but was traded a year later to the Chicago Red Stars. It was there that she finished her club career.

Karina LeBlanc, eligible for Canada, Dominica, and the United States, decided to play for the Canadian national team. She was able to represent her country at 5 Women’s World Cups: 1999, 2003, 2007, 2011, and 2015. She also was on the team for 2 Pan American Games and 2 Olympic Games (2008, 2012). She logged 110 caps for Canada, among the most caps in the program’s history. She had 47 clean sheets for the national team, which to date ranks as the most in Canada’s history. While between the posts, Canada went from being a good team to a great team. Having a lot of offense doesn’t mean anything if you don’t have a goalkeeper to keep the balls out of your own net. To have a world class keeper...that can take you places. Canada had that in Karina LeBlanc, and her play is the reason for a lot of their success in the late 2000s as they became a superpower in the women’s game.


For more Black History Month stories, check out our Black History Month hub. We will be bringing a story each day this month to highlight some of the biggest moments in black American and world soccer history.