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Olivia Moultrie deserves a chance to play in the NWSL on talent alone

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(Craig Mitchelldyer/ISI Photos/Getty Images)

Olivia Moultrie’s name has been in the headlines a lot lately, as the 15-year old soccer prodigy recently filed an antitrust lawsuit against the NWSL. Too young to play in the league per its age limit, Moultrie has argued that the rule restricts competition. 

On Monday, the judge in the case granted a temporary restraining order, lifting the age limit for 14 days unless otherwise extended. The ruling opens the door for an NWSL team to sign Moultrie, who’s been actively training and scrimmaging with the Portland Thorns.

Moultrie committed to soccer at a very young age. Her parents started homeschooling her in the fifth grade to free her up to play more soccer. At 11 years old, she committed to play at the University of North Carolina, becoming one of the youngest soccer players ever to receive a scholarship offer. At 13, she turned pro and signed a nine-year, six-figure endorsement deal with Nike that made her the youngest team player ever to sign with the company.

From there, Moultrie moved to Oregon, where she began to practice with the Thorns at age 13. She continues to train with the team, has her own locker space and has appeared in preseason games.

Moultrie’s Thorns teammates and other women’s soccer veterans have publicly come to her defense, despite the NWSL’s arguments that allowing a minor to play would yield additional league costs.

“Just to be clear, Olivia is a pro in all but matchdays,” Thorns defender and USWNT player Becky Sauerbrunn wrote on Twitter. “She should be able to play in the NWSL and we should be nurturing young talent — allowing them to develop by playing against the best. Let her play.”

Hope Solo said the NWSL should want to be “on the right side of history.” The former USWNT goalkeeper poked holes in the NWSL’s single-entity defense, calling it “a bunch of BS” and likening the league’s handling of the case to U.S. Soccer’s with the equal pay lawsuit.

“If you’re good enough, you’re old enough,” Thorns and USWNT midfielder Lindsey Horan wrote on Twitter. “Situations like this would not only benefit Olivia but women’s soccer in this country.

“This is a no brainer for me,” Sofia Huerta echoed. “Not quite sure why this is possible in the MLS and not the NWSL. If she’s good enough…she’s old enough.”

The support from current and former soccer stars isn’t all Moultrie has going for her. She’s also used to playing with players who are much older than she is. At age 12, Moultrie was playing against U17 teams and picking apart their defenses.

She also has experience in international competition, having competed on the U.S. U15, U16 and U17 national teams.

Moultrie has shown she has the talent to compete in the NWSL. Now, as the league negotiates its first collective bargaining agreement that will ultimately decide this issue, a team can give Moultrie a chance to prove herself even more.