Meet the teenager who sued the NWSL just so he could play

Olivia Moultrie was seven years old when she scribbled down a list of goals she wanted to achieve. The first was of a professional soccer player. The second was to win trophies and compete for the USA in a world championship. The third was to be the best player in the world. In fact, she was no different than the next naive kid with high ambitions. Except Moultrie, who is one of the pre-eminent soccer talents to emerge on the American women’s scene in a generation, has already scored two of those goals.

Not only that – she also broke records – becoming the youngest player to turn pro at 13 years old when she signed with the Portland Thorns of the US Women’s National Soccer League in 2019. She was simultaneously signed to Nike and, after colliding with with a list of big names at her new club, including Canadian legend Christine Sinclair and American star Becky Sauerbrunn, was catapulted into the limelight.

“It was definitely an interesting dynamic early on,” reflected Moultrie, a native of Salt Lake City. “There was definitely an aspect of liking it, people were like, ‘Why is this 13-year-old kid here?’ It was weird to them. It was strange for them, but I just wanted to go out on the field and prove myself.”

If she was initially uncomfortable in the dressing room, she could hardly have imagined the battle of acceptance that lay ahead of her.

As soon as she joined the Thorns, she found herself embroiled in a legal battle against the NWSL. Moultrie was allowed to train with the senior team and compete in exhibition matches, but was not old enough to sign a professional contract under league rules as she was under the age of 18.

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