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Olivia Moultrie, 15, makes history by signing with NWSL’s Portland Thorns

By Jill Martin, CNN

Earlier this month, Olivia Moultrie, a 15-year-old soccer player from California, was granted permission by a federal judge to sign with a National Women’s Soccer League (NWSL) club after ruling that the league can’t enforce its age rule requiring players to be at least 18 to sign a professional contract with one of the league’s clubs.

Moultrie now has a team: she has signed a three-year contract with Portland Thorns FC, the team announced Wednesday. She is eligible to play immediately.

“This is a dream come true and I can’t wait to officially join my Thorns teammates in competition,” Moultrie said in a press release. “I am so thankful to the legal team that helped me get this done, they were nothing short of amazing.”

A press release from the Thorns says that Portland acquired the rights to Moultrie from the NWSL club OL Reign, who held her rights as the first team on the NWSL discovery priority list. In return, OL Reign will receive a third-round pick in the 2022 NWSL draft.

Moultrie began training with Thorns FC during the 2019 season and has featured in preseason competition in each of the last three seasons.

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“This step is very important for Olivia,” Thorns head coach Mark Parsons said. “For this club to have the commitment and vision to sign a young, talented player that we really believe in is immense. Olivia has continued to grow and push forward throughout her time here and has taken every challenge and turned it into an opportunity.”

“We are pleased to have Olivia join our team,” said Gavin Wilkinson, Thorns FC’s general manager and president of soccer. “She has been part of this club since early 2019 and there have been many Thorns staff fully invested in her development.”

On June 17, US District Court Judge Karin J. Immergut granted a preliminary injunction for Moultrie, whose father argued that the NWSL’s rule prohibiting players under the age of 18 from signing with a team violates federal antitrust law.

Immergut’s order points out that the NWSL’s counterpart men’s league in the US, Major League Soccer, has no age minimum and that “more than half of MLS teams allegedly had one or more players” under 18 as of May 2021.

CNN has reached out to the NWSL for comment on Moultrie’s signing.

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