15-Year-Old Soccer Star Can Sign With A Professional Team Just Like Boys, Judge Rules
Olivia Moultrie, 15, and her lawyers argued in a lawsuit earlier this month that boys under the age of 18 are allowed to play professionally, while girls are not.
A federal judge ruled that 15-year-old soccer star Olivia Moultrie should have the same opportunity as men to sign with a National Women’s Soccer League team despite being under the age requirement of 18.
U.S. District Judge Karin Immergut on Monday granted a temporary restraining order that blocks the NWSL’s age rule and allows 15-year-old Moultrie to try for a spot on a professional team. The young soccer extraordinaire has been practicing, scrimmaging, and competing in pre-season games with the Portland Thorns since she was 13, according to The Oregonian.
Earlier this month, Moultrie and her family filed a lawsuit against the NWSL for allegedly breaking antitrust laws by not allowing Moultrie the option to be signed by a team, The Oregonian reported. The lawsuit reportedly claimed the age rule caused Moultrie’s career to be “irreparably harmed,” as barring her from signing with a professional team could delay her chances of being invited to the Olympics or the U.S. Women’s National Team.
Moultrie’s legal team also cited that players under the age of 18 have been signed to the Major League Soccer mens’ teams and that soccer teams around the world allow players to be signed at any age.
“[The NWSL] have offered no legitimate procompetitive justification for treating young women who want an opportunity to play professional soccer differently than young men,” Judge Immergut wrote in her ruling. She added that “affording girls in the United States the same opportunities as boys” serves the public interest.
The temporary restraining order will be in effect for 14 days, unless the court extends it. Leonard Simon, one of Moultrie’s lawyers, told The Oregonian that they were “very, very pleased with the court’s ruling.”
Moultrie tweeted last week: “The only gender and country combination in the entire world where I can’t play professional soccer is as a female in the United States. Just something to consider.”
A spokesperson for the NWSL told multiple outlets the league’s ongoing collective bargaining agreement with the NWSL Players’ Association would address “terms of employment, including the age rule.”
“We continue to believe that is the appropriate place for a decision on this topic and are evaluating our options with respect to the district court's order,” the spokesperson continued.
Moultrie’s impressive resume as a soccer player includes being recruited by the University of North Carolina soccer team at age 11 and a nine-year endorsement contract with Nike.
The young soccer star gained support from professional women's soccer players including Becky Sauerbrunn and Lindsey Horan: