Judge says 15-year-old Olivia Moultrie should be able to play in NWSL

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Judge says 15-year-old Olivia Moultrie should be able to play in NWSL originally appeared on NBC Sports Northwest

After teen soccer phenom Olivia Moultrie sued the National Women’s Soccer League for its existing age restrictions, a federal judge approved a temporary restraining order on Monday clearing the way for Moultrie to move forward in her soccer career.

Earlier this month, Moultrie sued the league for the right to compete after the 15-year-old was told that due to the league’s Sherman Antitrust Act, which requires players to be at least 18 years of age, she could not compete for a position on a professional soccer team.

Ultimately, District Judge Karin J. Immergut approved a 14-day restraining order, which will likely be extended, and enables Moultrie to sign with a NWSL team. Immergut concluded that the NWSL’s rule violates antitrust law and hinders Moultrie's career development.

In her ruling, per ESPN, Immegrut said, “Plaintiff has shown that the 10 teams that make up the NWSL have agreed to impose the NWSL's age restriction which excludes female competitors from the only available professional soccer opportunity in the United States because they are under 18, regardless of talent, maturity, strength, and ability.

"Defendants have not presented any compelling procompetitive reasons to justify this anticompetitive policy, nor have they shown that eliminating the Age Rule will cause any nonspeculative injury to the NWSL. Defendants have offered no legitimate procompetitive justification for treating young women who want an opportunity to play professional soccer differently than young men.”

It’s possible Moultrie could sign with the Portland Thorns, who are coming off their first loss since the 2020 Challenge Cup Semifinals. The 15-year-old soccer prodigy has been practicing with the NWSL’s Portland Thorns and has taken part in unofficial scrimmages and preseason games, but so far, she has only been eligible to compete in unofficial games as part of the team’s development academy.

Moultrie first signed a scholarship offer to play at UNC at just 11 years old, followed by a six-figure marketing deal with Nike at 13 years old. Around the world, including in the MLS and European Women’s League, such age restrictions do not exist.

Recently Moultrie responded to a tweet, where she was quoted saying, “If I were French or if I were Spanish or if I were German, I would be allowed to play right now.”

“…or if I were a boy,” she added in a post. “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.”

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That could soon change.