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15-Year Old Phenom Wins Case Against NWSL, Can Now Sign With Team

All Olivia Moultrie has wanted was the chance to play professionally. She will now have that chance after a federal court ruling.
Photo: Ben Siegel/Ohio University

Photo: Ben Siegel/Ohio University

Olivia Moultrie will now be able to play professional soccer in the United States.

The National Women's Soccer League (NWSL), the top professional women's soccer league in the United States, has long had a rule that players under the age of 18 were prohibited from signing with a team. Moultrie, through her father as guardian, sued the league, saying the rule violated the Sherman Anti-Trust Act.

A federal judge approved a temporary restraining order on Monday night that will force the NWSL to remove that rule and allow Moultrie to sign with a team.

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Federal Judge "Promoting Gender Equality" With Ruling

Moultrie has said the age restriction, "will continually slow her development, delay her improvement, and more generally impede her career as a soccer player." She furthered her argument by highlighting the fact an under-18 girl in the United States is the only gender/age combination in the world that cannot play professional soccer.

Judge Karin Immergurt wrote in a 19-page report, "The defendants [NWSL] have not 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."

In her ruling, Immergurt continued by saying her ruling promoted gender equality, which was "clearly in the public interest:

Plaintiff [Moultrie] has shown that the ten 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...In other words, the only thing currently standing between Plaintiff and her aspriation to be a professional soccer player in this country is her gender. Promoting gender equality in athletics is clearly in the public interest.

- Judge Karin Immergurt

Immergurt's ruling will be in place for 14 days. It is uncertain whether or not any NWSL team will sign Moultrie. The 15-year old has been training with the Portland Thorns over the last season, even making appearances for the Thorns U-19 side.