Creative Soccer Culture

Olivia Moultrie On Her Rapid Rise, Signing With Nike & Measuring Success

Few players burst onto the scene in the way that Olivia Moultrie has. There’s something fascinating about the psychology of a player that’s so single-minded and determined in their approach, and we were able to speak with the Portland Thorns and USWNT player to find out more about the person behind the record-breaking player.

To say you want to be the best player of all-time is a pretty high standard to set for yourself. Magnified when you’re only seven. Now at 18 though, Olivia Moultrie is definitely on the right course to accomplish that goal. Just check her Wiki page and you’ll catch our drift: youngest player to commit to a college team and accept a scholarship offer (which she ultimately gave up) at age 11; youngest American women’s soccer player to turn professional, at age 13; youngest player to play an NWSL regular-season game, at age 15; youngest player in NWSL regular-season history to score a goal at age 16. Yep, she’s certainly on the right trajectory, and as the old saying goes, “aim for the moon and if you miss you’ll end up in the stars”.

For most people, being a kid is about having fun, getting into trouble (not too much, mind) and just generally discovering who you are as a person. So it’s interesting to see how a youngster develops with the added dynamic of aiming to not only be a professional footballer, but the greatest of all-time. And so attention flips to what’s next, as goals continually evolve with each and every passing achievement and accolade. It’s one of the most enthralling journey in football for any 18 year old in the history of the game, and we wanted to find out more about who Olivia Moultrie really is. And what better way than to sit down and spend some time shooting the breeze with the lady herself?

Kicking things off, what sparked your love for soccer at such a young age?

Both my parents were collegiate athletes, so I was born into a super competitive family, so driven goals were part of life from a very young age. They threw me and my sisters into sports. My mom played soccer and my dad played basketball. I tried both but as soon as I stepped onto the soccer field, I immediately knew this would be my path. So yeah, it escalated pretty quickly, obviously! That's kind of how it started.

Who was your favourite team or player to watch when you were growing up?

I've watched Barcelona a ton. I've loved Man City for a long time too, but yeah, watching Messi, Iniesta… watching ‘MSN’ – Messi, Suarez and Neymar – when they were all part of that unbelievable team… that was top tier. That's one of my favourite teams of all time. But as soon as Messi left, I didn’t feel the same connection.

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You were 15 when you scored your first professional goal. Of course, you scored a ton before that, but how did that one feel different?

It was one of the coolest moments for me, for sure. It was a pure adrenaline rush when it went in the back of the net. Then hearing the crowd and suddenly my teammates were everywhere. When you score in a youth game, you high five on your way back to the kick-off, but in a professional game it's obviously a way bigger deal, right? Like, everyone's screaming, your teammates are freaking out. So yeah, it was different in that way.

You gave up your UNC (University of North Carolina) scholarship to accelerate your path to becoming a professional. How did you choose the route that you did?

When I initially committed to UNC (University of North Carolina) at 11-years-old, at the time it was just like, OK, this is the best path forward and will be the most competitive environment for me. Obviously, their record in the NCAA is incredible, so I thought it would be the best place to challenge myself.

After I committed to UNC, I ended up traveling to Europe. I trained with some clubs and when I saw what was over there, I realised I would have six more years till I even went to college and then four more years of school. I just thought, that's too far away for me – I knew I wanted to turn professional faster than that.

So, we were going to move overseas with my family, and I was going to join Lyon. That's when the Portland option became available. They said ‘No, we don't want her to move overseas, we want her to stay here,’ – so, I thought, well, what could be better than being with the Portland Thorns first team every single day at the age of 13?

And all of this coincided with you signing your endorsement deal with Nike, right?

Right. The Nike contract made it worth it for me to give up an entire college scholarship – otherwise it wouldn’t have been smart to walk away from that. It allowed me to chase my dreams at such an early age and try and get where I wanted much faster.

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To have that mindset and determination at such a young age – where do you think that came from?

I don't know what made me so determined, but I've been that way my whole life in terms of wanting the next challenge. When I made the decision to go to Portland, I was 13, so people were probably thinking I was insane, or that my parents were driving the whole thing, which is the furthest thing from the truth. I was the person driving it the whole time. From the age of seven, that's when I told my parents I want to be a pro. This is what I want to do. There were enough people around us who believed it was a possibility. My parents are not the type of people who would just throw away their kid’s future for something that's a pipe dream.

How did it feel joining up with Portland Thorns at 13 years old?

Nothing could have 100 percent prepared me for exactly how that was going to feel, but I felt ready to step in and figure it out. It was hard for sure. When I first got to Portland, it was like, ‘what's this 13-year-old doing here?’ Nobody had ever done that before, right? It was unknown territory for everyone. I just knew that once I got on the field, that was my safe space; that's where I knew that I could hang with anyone, and I was ready to compete and earn everyone's respect.

So, that’s what I did. I was like – I'm just going to go to work. That’s what I’ve known my whole life, so that’s what I’m going to do. By the time I was able to sign at 15, my teammates couldn’t have been happier for me, and they knew I was ready for it. There was no more like, ‘what’s this kid doing here?’

The whole process helped me mature and understand what it takes to accomplish something. And obviously I'm not even at my goal yet, right? These are just steps along the way. Becoming a professional was my first goal, so achieving that has been extremely exciting for me. But I still have the same tunnel vision to get closer to my goals every single day.

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Last year you made your debut with the U.S. Women's National Team. How special was that whole experience?

Yeah, I was in my second camp at the point of the China games, so I was really excited. I had been through the camp for the Colombia games, so I kind of knew what to expect. Obviously, I hadn’t made my debut yet though, but I was getting the sense that I would play a part in the games against China. The nerves at that point were gone – I just felt so ready for it. I knew this is what I’d been working for. When I finally got to step on the field, the emotions are hard to describe at that point. You’re just like, ‘holy crap, this is really freaking cool.’ Even thinking about it now, I can’t stop smiling because it was a really special moment. 

You were recently named U.S. Soccer’s Young Female Player of the Year. How does it feel to win that award on the back of what was such a big year for you?

Being able to win that award after breaking into the national team and the year I had with the Thorns, it was really special. Last year was a big step forward for me in general, in terms of getting closer to being the type of player that I want to be, you know? I’ve been getting closer to that each year and with each game. I felt like 2023 was a big turning point in terms of starting to feel more comfortable doing the things I want to do at the highest level. So, winning the award off of a year like that, it just feels like another boost in terms of heading into 2024. Now it's about continuing to build into the more polished version of myself as a professional player, so I'm really excited for that.

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Emma Hayes was recently named as the new head coach of the USWNT. How excited are you to work with her?

Yeah, absolutely. She came to our last camp, before the China games. Having her there was really cool, you know, to be able to meet her and feel the vibes out. Obviously, she's not working with the team on the field yet, but it was great to get a sense of what she wants for the team. I think she'll be an amazing fit. I can't wait to build a relationship with her and hopefully do some great things with the national team together. The whole team is excited.

How do you personally measure success?

I’m definitely someone who likes to set short term goals. Not always in terms of exact, measurable things, but the feeling that I’m getting closer to becoming the player that I want to be. For example, am I threatening to score goals or help my team score goals as much as possible? And then also in terms of everyday goals, do I feel like I worked today in a way that got me closer to my goals? That's really how I approach everything – I am very meticulous.

Every day I wake up with a plan for the day and I'm going to execute that to my best ability. That's really how I measure success. One day I hope to be able to say that I achieved everything that I wanted to, but right now I feel like I'm in a pretty good spot, and I can't wait to just keep getting closer to those goals.

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Do you have an ultimate goal as a player?

Yeah, I want to be considered the best player in the world. So, that's what I'm striving for. Does that equal trophies? Of course. Does that mean winning with my club and country? 100 percent. I don't know exactly where that will take me in terms of what teams I'll play for, but I know that's what I want. So, like I said, every decision that's been made and everything I do is with that goal in mind.

How much have you enjoyed your time with Nike since you signed with them?

My relationship with Nike has always been awesome. I started working with Nike when I was really little – just things like testing boots and even playing pickup with some of the guys who have worked with Nike. So, there's always been a relationship there.

Now that I’m an official Nike athlete, obviously there are cool perks to that. I was always a Nike fan growing up – if you walked into my closet, that's all you would see. Now it's tenfold that! Nike have been a huge support system for me in terms of everything that I wanted to do, and they continue to support me on my journey. So yeah, it's been a great experience to work with them and I hope that we can continue to work together for my whole career.

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You are a huge inspiration for a lot of young girls. What do you wish to see for the next generation and what advice would you pass on?

That question still hits me sometimes because going into everything, I wasn’t planning on being a role model. For me, I just want kids to chase their dreams, you know? My one piece of advice is to set goals. Decide on the things that you want to be better at and create a plan for how to get there. I’m a Type A personality – give me a list, give me something I’ve got to do, and I'll finish it. So that's kind of how I approach the world.

When you think of the future of women’s soccer, what changes would you like to see?

Equal opportunity and equality in how we’re treated versus the men’s game. I’m never going to say that we deserve the exact same amount of money, because being realistic, how many more people watch men’s soccer? Obviously, that’s growing on the women’s side, and I think we’re getting closer to the things we want – like club’s investing and wanting their women’s teams to be great.

I just hope that we continue to see that worldwide and continue to see the game grow. Just being treated like professionals, making us feel like professionals, it makes our job a heck of a lot more enjoyable and makes us play better. I think the future will be really exciting.

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Olivia Moultrie wears the Nike Air Zoom Mercurial Vapor XV, which you can pick up at

Daniel Jones

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