How Olivia Moultrie Changed the USWNT

    Many players in the USWNT have changed the game, not just for the USWNT but also for young players. We were lucky to witness great names like Alex Morgan and Megan Rapinoe play, and now we thankfully have many years coming to witness Olivia Moultrie play. The 18-year-old may still be young, but she’s already achieved great milestones that will go down in the history of the game. One great thing about Moultrie is that she will always be an inspiration for young girls who dream of going pro.


    How It All Started

    Moultrie becoming a professional soccer player wasn’t easy, but it wasn’t a surprise. The young star dreamt of becoming a professional soccer player since she was just seven years old. She knew she had the talent, and she worked very hard to make her dream a reality. She even committed to the University of North Carolina at 11 years old. However, she gave up this chance as she realized that she wanted to go pro immediately at 13 years old; it was her dream.

    Yet, achieving such a dream wasn’t easy for Moultrie or any player younger than 18. Years ago, the NWSL had a rule preventing players under 18 from signing professional contracts with the league’s clubs. This could have easily ended or delayed Moultrie achieving her dream, but she didn’t let it stop her.


    Fighting to Play in the NWSL

    She may have turned pro at 13 since she started training with Portland Thorns FC in 2019. However, she couldn’t participate in official matches because of her age. She was only allowed to play with the Thorns in unofficial matches. When Moultrie was 15 years old, she and her family sued the NWSL because of their age limit. She won that lawsuit before she made it to 16 and signed a pro contract with Portland Thorns FC. With the age limit lifted, Moultrie and many other young players finally had the chance to turn pro.

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    After signing that contract, her first match made her the youngest player to play in the NWSL at the time. This was a life-changing moment for Moultrie and other young players. Moultrie’s passion and her lawsuit started a new wave of young players being able to go pro and prove themselves. She was the youngest player to play in the NWSL. Now we have Melanie Barcenas owning that record. And a handful of other young players signed last year and this year. Moultrie had a large role in that, even if she didn’t realize how her journey would contribute to other players’ paths and the game itself.


    Moultrie Being Part of the USWNT

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    At 14, Moultrie debuted with the U17 US Youth National Team. Now, at 18, she plays for the senior team. Just recently, she scored her first two goals in her international career in a game against the Dominican Republic.

    Her two goals in the W Gold Cup will be a memory she will never forget. This game also saw Moultrie break another record, becoming the third USWNT player to score two or more goals in a game at the age of 18 or younger.


    Moultrie Changing the Future of the USWNT

    Moultrie’s fight to play and go pro changed her life, the NWSL, and the USWNT. With the age limit rule erased, many players get the chance to launch their pro careers before turning 18.

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    Now, we see players like Jaedyn Shaw, Melanie Barcenas, Kimmy Ascanio, Alex Pfeiffer, and Chloe Ricketts able to compete professionally. With Shaw already being part of the USWNT team, it wouldn’t be surprising if other members of the youth WNT also had a future role in the senior squad. With more American players being able to accelerate their careers, the USWNT has a bright future. In the last Women’s World Cup, the USWNT was the fourth-oldest team in the tournament. This will undoubtedly change in the upcoming years.


    The Next Steps

    Moultrie is now 18 years old and still has much to achieve. Her contract with the Portland Thorns was extended until 2026; therefore, her journey in the NWSL is far from over. “She has a tremendous attitude for growth and winning, and we look forward to seeing her grow into the world-class player we all believe she can be,” Thorns’ Head Coach Mike Norris said about Moultrie.

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    The main question is how the youth movement that Moultrie unconsciously started will keep going. The USWNT has the chance to foster an entirely new generation of talented players, just like any other national team, with young players inspired by Moultrie. To help develop these young players, safe training environments should be maintained, whether in the NWSL or worldwide.

    The debate about whether young players should go pro may exist forever. However, many of these young players are able to compete and hold their own at this level without a problem. Young players have the chance to live their dreams and prove themselves. Not only will the opportunity to play change their lives, but it will also change the game itself. The most important thing is to protect these players and ensure their growth will occur in a safe environment.


    Featured image via Getty Images




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