15-year-old soccer player should be allowed to play in US professional women's league, judge rules

Olivia Moultrie runs onto the field during a game between OL Reign and Portland Thorns FC at Providence Park on March 27, 2021.

(CNN)A federal judge has ruled that a 15-year-old soccer player should be able to be signed by the National Women's Soccer League despite the league's existing age restriction.

In a ruling issued Monday, Judge Karin Immergut approved a temporary restraining order that would require the NWSL to lift its age restrictions, allowing Olivia Moultrie to be signed on to a team.
Such restrictions do not exist in the US men's professional league, the MLS, or in European Women's Leagues, according to the order.
      In a tweet last week, the teen said, "The only gender and country combination in the entire world where I can't play professional soccer is as a female in the United States. Just something to consider."
        Her official Twitter feed was full of retweets in support of her effort to be signed to a professional team.
          Moultrie was 14 when she appeared with the Portland Thorns, a professional women's league U-19 team in 2020 and was the youngest player to participate in training camp with the U.S. U-17 Women's National Team in January, according to a press release from Thorns Academy.
          Following the decision, Len Simon, an attorney representing Moultrie, expressed delight, telling CNN in an email, "We are very pleased with the court's ruling."
          In a statement reported by The Oregonian, the NWSL said that it was in the midst of collective bargaining negotiations with the players association over employment terms, which include the age rule. "We continue to believe that is the appropriate place for a decision on this topic and are evaluating our options with respect to the district court's order," the statement said
          CNN has reached out to NWSL for comment but has not yet heard back.

          Moultrie feels not being on team is delaying improvement

          The application for a restraining order was filed on May 4 and sought to stop NWSL from enforcing its rule that players must be 18 or older.
          According to the ruling, Moultrie wants to be able to compete for a position on a professional soccer team "free from the Age Rule's restrictions."
          The ruling noted that the NWSL has age restrictions that are not present in leagues for boys or in European leagues and those restrictions are preventing her from moving forward in her career.
          Moultrie is quoted as saying the age restriction "will continually slow her development, delay her improvement, and more generally impede her career as a soccer player."
          "Plaintiff 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," the ruling states.
          The approved restraining order will expire in two weeks and a preliminary injunction hearing may be scheduled in the case, according to the ruling.
          The judge said her decision served the public interest because it promotes gender equality.
            "This Court notes that the NWSL's comparable men's league in the United States, MLS, has no age limit and employs players under 18," Immergut stated, noting that "more than half of MLS teams allegedly had one or more players on their roster under the age of 18."
            "In other words, the only thing currently standing between Plaintiff and her aspiration to be a professional soccer player in this country is her gender," Immergut concluded. "Promoting gender equity in athletics is clearly in the public interest."