It was a splashy announcement that was impossible to ignore: Olivia Moultrie, a 13-year-old soccer player, had gone pro.
She doesn’t have a team to play for at the moment but, with the help of her new sports agent, she turned down a scholarship at UNC and signed a multi-year contract with Nike worth hundreds of thousands of dollars.
It was an unprecedented move. Not since Lindsey Horan skipped college to play for Paris Saint-Germain had an American female taken a similar path, but Moultrie made her decision far younger and in much more unusual circumstances. Because of her minor status, she’s not allowed to play overseas. Whether she might soon be playing in the National Women’s Soccer League is just as uncertain. It could be years before she has a professional club team.
But the big announcement of Moultrie as the youngest American girl to become a pro soccer player happened in February. Now it’s late April and the question becomes: So, what comes next?
Moultrie has been training with the Portland Thorns senior team alongside the likes of Horan and Tobin Heath, despite being part of the club’s youth academy. An eventual debut in the NWSL seems like the next logical step —but it won’t be happening anytime soon.
The NWSL doesn’t actually have any specific rules against an American minor playing in the league. As written, the NWSL’s competition rules only cite age as a factor for non-contract replacement players and foreign players—neither can be minors.
But there is a reluctance from the NWSL front office in allowing a minor to compete in the league. It’s sort of an unwritten rule: Players are expected to play in college before they arrive in the NWSL. Even Mallory Pugh and Tierna Davidson, who departed from the usual mold, had been in college for some period of time before leaving to play in the NWSL.