Summary List Placement
One lawsuit and two years of patience later, a 15-year-old soccer prodigy is set to become the youngest player in National Women’s Soccer League history.
Olivia Moultrie has agreed on contract terms to play for the NWSL’s Portland Thorns, although she and her soon-to-be club are waiting on final approval from the league.
“It’s always been a dream of mine to play professionally in the US,” Moultrie said in a press release. “I know girls my age are competing around the world and I just want to get on the field and officially compete.”
Moultrie, who grew up in Wilsonville, Oregon, committed to UNC at 11 years old before reneging to go pro at age 13. She signed a nine-year endorsement deal with Nike in 2019, and has trained with the Thorns for the two seasons since. Moultrie has even suited up for Portland in preseason games, but NWSL constraints prevented her from playing in a full-time capacity due to her age.
So Moultrie sued the league in May, alleging that the NWSL’s rule prohibiting athletes under 18 violates US antitrust law. Her legal team also noted that she’d be allowed to play professional soccer domestically at her age if she were a boy.
“The truth is that if Olivia Moultrie was male, she’d already be playing in MLS,” Max Forer, a sports law attorney at Miller Nash Graham & Dunn who’s representing Moultrie, said in a statement. “Further, she’s already eligible to play for the US Women’s National Team but can’t officially play in the league that develops and prepares talent for the National Team. That’s unfair.”
USWNT stars Becky Sauerbrunn and Lindsey Horan, who both play for the Thorns, have said they support Moultrie’s right to play.
On May 24, a judge issued a temporary restraining order on the NWSL’s age restriction, which paved the way for Moultrie to sign with Portland.
But her case is still making its way through the court system, and the league’s lawyers continue to argue in favor of the age restriction. On Monday, Moultrie and her legal team were back in court urging the judge to extend the restraining order. Thorns head coach Mark Parsons and some of Moultrie’s future teammates came to the courthouse to show support for the young star.
According to The Oregonian, Moultrie’s lawyers argued that the league is intentionally stalling its approval of her contract with Portland. The NWSL’s lawyers disagreed, but the judge ruled that the league must inform Moultrie of whether or not her signing will be upheld by 5 p.m. PT on Tuesday.
“The NWSL remains in the midst of collective bargaining negotiations with the NWSL Players Association over all terms of employment, including the age rule,” a representative for the NWSL told Insider. “We continue to believe that is the appropriate place for a decision on this topic.”
The Thorns next game is on June 20 against Kansas City. Whether Moultrie will be featured on the team’s roster remains to be seen.