What were you doing at 13 years old?
On Monday March 4, American teenager Olivia Moultrie turned professional, becoming the youngest female soccer player to ever do so.
By third grade, she turned her attention to become the greatest soccer player in the world. When she was 11 years old, she already accepted a scholarship offer from the University of North Carolina. And now, at age 13, she has signed a fresh deal with sports agency Wasserman Media Group as well as a six-figure endorsement deal with Nike.
A youth prodigy, Moultrie has already competed with older girls within the U.S. national program, and plays with the boys' teams in her hometown. Her whole family have re-jigged their life to focus on Moultrie’s burgeoning career as well, with her father K.C. Moultrie – a manager for an international pharmaceutical company –now focusing on his daughter’s soccer career into his main job.
The California native may not be a household name just yet, but it probably won’t be long before she is one. Word of her talent has already made it across the Atlantic and worldwide, and the 13-year-old has already trained with the youth teams of European powerhouses Bayern, Lyon and PSG. In France, coaches had to keep moving her up an age group in order to fit in with her skill until she was training with the club’s boys' Under-17 side by the end of the trip.
Despite her young age, Moultrie’s career has been in the works for years. She started intense soccer training starting from the age of seven, and was home-schooled starting from the fifth grade in order to fit more time in her schedule for soccer practice. She was the first girl to play for a boys’ team in the U.S. Development Academy system and was just 10 years old when she started to participate in college showcase camps. And then she was awarded a full scholarship from North Carolina just a year later.
But Moultrie, despite her phenomenal skills, still gets trolled on her social media accounts. She is active on Instagram, where she has nearly 100,000 followers, but uses the hate to fuel her motivation. She posts frequent clips of her soccer highlights, and is a natural, goalscoring forward.
"I like looking through the comments," she told the New York Times, "and then I find that one comment, and I’m like, 'Really, bro?' And then I just keep scrolling."
While skipping college has been common for young male soccer players in the United States to pursue professional careers, it is rare for girls to do so. Of the current U.S. women’s national team, only two players have foregone college to turn pro. USWNT midfielder Lindsey Horan joined PSG at 18 years old in 2012. When she was 19, Mallory Pugh decided to rescind her scholarship offer to UCLA in order to join National Women's Soccer League side Washington Spirit.
Though she has already landed on the radar of some of the biggest clubs in Europe, a move across the pond for Moultrie probably won’t happen for several years. FIFA rules denote that youth players are forbidden to sign with foreign clubs before they turn 18.
And so, she’s already taken the next best step. The latest word on Moultrie is that she is set to leave her hometown of Canyon County, California, to move to Portland, Oregon to join the Thorns developmental academy. It’s still unclear, however, how she will be allocated within the NWSL.
But the future is bright for Moultrie. She’s already landed a lucrative endorsement deal with Nike, and her name will only become more widespread down the line. She made a cameo in Nike’s "Just Do It" advertisement that aired during the 2019 Oscars ceremony, which was narrated by Serena Williams and focuses on empowering female athletes.
Moultrie turning pro so early in her career instead of going to college first could change American soccer. With European soccer changing to accommodate more professional women's leagues, they have done well to ensure the development of young female talents by turning them professional in their teenage years – following in the footsteps of their male counterparts.
After the United States was eliminated from the FIFA U-20 Women's World Cup, technical director April Heinrichs bemoaned the lack of young American players playing for first-division professional leagues compared to the likes of Japan, Spain and France.
"And we have zero,” Heinrichs said at the time, "so that’s going to catch up to us eventually."