Canadian women's national team goalkeeper Stephanie Labbé will be suiting up for a men's team in 2018, according to her personal blog and Twitter account. She will be joining the Premier Development League's Calgary Foothills FC for a trial.
We are delighted to welcome @CanadaSoccerEN #CanWNT Goalkeeper ✋ @stephlabbe1 to our club to compete for a spot on the roster of our @FoothillsFCU23 team for 2018.— Foothills Soccer (@FoothillsSoccer) March 13, 2018
Read below: https://t.co/J5Vo0QWVYq
Labbé will likely be playing alongside the likes of Canada men's U-23 keeper Marco Carducci, and potentially senior men's national team veteran Nik Ledgerwood.
The Foothills are slated to compete in the PDL, which is the USL's main development league and the nominal fourth tier of American soccer. Calgary plays in the Northwest Division of the Western Conference, alongside fellow Canadian clubs TSS FC Rovers (in Burnaby, BC) and the Victoria Highlanders.
Calgary joined the league in 2015, although the Foothills name has been around since 1972.
According to the PDL rulebook, the 31-year-old Labbé (as well as the 33-year-old Ledgerwood) will be eligible to play for Calgary because teams are allowed to carry a maximum of eight players on their 26-man roster over the age of 23, while they must also have at least three players 18 or younger.
Labbé has been playing for the women's national team since 2008, her greatest achievement to date on the international stage coming at the Rio 2016 Olympics. She backstopped Canada to a bronze medal, which they won over hosts Brazil.
Previously, Labbé had been playing with the Washington Spirit of the National Women's Soccer League, appearing in eight games for them in 2016, bagging five clean sheets, and 17 games in 2017. She left the Spirit in February of this year, after it seemed like a rift emerged between the two parties.
The goalkeeper has also, in the past, played for Piteå IF and KIF Örebro in Sweden's Damallsvenskan, and she was once named Big East Conference keeper of the year in her time in college with the Connecticut Huskies.
In her blog post announcing her trial with Calgary, Labbé made reference to some of the previous Canadian pioneers in women's sports who have paved the way for her to compete with men. Women's national hockey team goalie Shannon Szabados, in particular, may have been an inspiration after she signed with the SPHL's Columbus Cottonmouths. Szabados, an Edmonton native like Labbé, was the first woman to record a shutout in a men's pro hockey game on December 27, 2015.
This news is particularly interesting since it comes in the midst of the birth of the Canadian Premier League. The Calgary Foothills are rumoured to be interested in entering the CPL when it kicks off in 2019 — which may indeed be why players like Carducci and Ledgerwood have signed there.
No word yet on when exactly Labbé will be trialing, but this is nonetheless very exciting news.