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How Chloe Ricketts became the youngest player in the NWSL

On Friday, the 15-year-old signed a contract with the Washington Spirit

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Members of the Washington Spirit celebrate scoring a goal during the second half of a NWSL soccer match in Washington, on Saturday, Oct. 9, 2021. The team just signed Chloe Ricketts, the youngest player in the league.

Amanda Andrade-Rhoades, Associated Press

At 15 years old, Chloe Ricketts has become the youngest player to sign a contract with the National Women’s Soccer League.

On Friday, Ricketts signed a three-year deal with the Washington Spirit, which also includes an option for 2026, ESPN reported.

“The opportunity to join the Washington Spirit on a professional contract is a dream come true,” she said in a statement on the Spirit’s website. “I’m looking forward to continuing my development as a player and individual with the great resources here in the District.”

Ricketts participated in the team’s preseason January training camp as a nonroster invitee. Only a sophomore in high school, the Michigan native will continue her education virtually during the season, according to Just Women’s Sports.

“This season, we remain very focused on building a roster that can help us succeed now while also investing in the future,” Spirit head coach Mark Parsons said, per the team’s website. “Chloe has shown great quality with and without the ball and has an incredible intensity in everything she does.”

Last year, Ricketts played for AFC Ann Arbor in the United Soccer League League Two. In 2021, she won the Michigan State Cup and National League Great Lakes Conference with the National League’s 2007 boys Ann Arbor Tigers and also played in the Elite Clubs National League finals with the 2006 girls team, according to the Spirit.

Her new signing caught the eye of Women’s Sports Foundation founder and tennis icon Billie Jean King, who congratulated Ricketts on Twitter.

Who used to be the youngest NWSL player?

In 2021, Olivia Moultrie, a Portland Thorns player and member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, made history as the youngest player to sign an NWSL contract. She was 15 years and 286 days old.

Ricketts was three days younger than Moultrie when she signed.

At the time of Moultrie’s signing, players had to be at least 18 years old to sign an NWSL contract. Moultrie filed an antitrust lawsuit against the league in May 2021, saying the rule violated antitrust laws.

She had been training with the team since she was 13 and signed a deal with Nike, which made her ineligible to play college soccer and voided the scholarship offer she accepted from the University of North Carolina when she was 11, according to The Athletic.

Judge Karin Immergut ruled in Moultrie’s favor in June 2021. Moultrie signed a contract with the Thorns two weeks later.

“This court again finds that the merits clearly favor plaintiff’s position, that she will be irreparably harmed if it does not grant the preliminary injunction, and that the balance of equities and the public interest strongly favor affording girls in the United States the same opportunities as boys,” Immergut wrote in her ruling, per The Athletic.

The league appealed the decision before later reaching a settlement with Moultrie. The settlement stipulated that she was eligible to play unless the league and the league’s player association agreed to an age-restriction that would exclude Moultrie in their next collective bargaining agreement, according to Sportico.

The league has since made efforts to increase player eligibility. In January, it introduced the Under-18 Entry List, which made Ricketts’ signing possible.

Players in the Under-18 Entry List must live with a parent or legal guardian until they turn 18, according to the NWSL’s website. They are ineligible for expansion drafts and can’t be waived or traded without a parent or legal guardian’s consent before they turn 18.