No Place Like Home: Angel City Selects Alyssa Thompson at 2023 Draft01.12.23
In their biggest move yet this offseason, Angel City FC acquired Alyssa Thompson with the No. 1 pick of the 2023 NWSL Draft. The club had acquired the top pick from NJ/NY Gotham FC via a multi-team trade also involving Portland Thorns FC.
“Alyssa Thompson, for us, is a phenom and generational player,” says General Manager Angela Hucles Mangano. “She’s a player who can make an immediate impact, but she’s also young and can develop and look to be a player that we're building a future off of, too.”
The 18-year-old Thompson, who is still in high school at Harvard-Westlake, is an LA native who has long been touted as a top youth prospect. She declared for the draft last week, opting to forgo her college eligibility to go straight to the pro level. She's the first high schooler ever selected in the NWSL Draft.
“This was the hardest decision that I've ever had to make in my life,” says Thompson of choosing to enter the draft. “There were so many back and forths about it, but in the end, I decided that it was the best for me.”
Thompson has been on Angel City’s radar for a while, having trained with the team last year during preseason. “Training with the full team and being in that environment, I thought, 'Wow, I can do this,’” she says.
Many fans will be familiar with Thompson from the stint the then-17-year-old had with the senior US Women’s National Team this past fall, when she played some late-game minutes against England and Spain—including in a sold-out game at Wembley, her international debut. It was a brief but potentially momentous look at a player who could one day make a big impact on the international stage.
Over the course of her club career, Thompson has played across the front line, as well as in the midfield. “As a forward, you obviously like to get the ball,” she says. “When the defenders are forcing you out, I love to play wing to get in those positions and cross, but I also like to play striker and make runs in behind the line.”
Thompson’s youth career has been unconventional. At age 13, she and her younger sister Gisele joined Santa Clarita Blue Heat, a semipro team whose roster is largely made up of college players looking to stay sharp in the offseason. In 2020, after a few years with Real So Cal, Thompson and her sister moved to Total Futbol Academy, a boys’ club in MLS Next, Major League Soccer’s academy system. While it’s not unusual for top players in girls’ club soccer to train with boys’ clubs, the Thompson sisters are full members of the team and play competitive matches with them.
“It’s definitely helped me get to the point where I am,” Thompson says. “The boys’ game, it's super fast, and they're super physical as well. You have to be able to play the ball quickly off one touch and pass accurately, because if you take one bad touch, they’re on you and you’ve already lost the ball.”
That’s not to say Thompson isn’t also fast—she ran track the first three years of high school, earning times in the top 10 in California in the 100 meters all three seasons, including the sixth-fastest time in the state in 2022.
In choosing to skip college, Angel City wasn’t Thompson’s only option. She’s trained in professional environments before, and wouldn’t have been the first talented young American enticed by offers overseas. That she chose to stay in the NWSL and join Angel City speaks volumes about what the club can offer its players.
“For her to see that we are a club that will support her holistically, support her development on and off the pitch, and are committed to helping her achieve her goals—these are all the things that we want players to see with Angel City,” said Hucles Mangano. “The value that we can provide is different than other teams, not just in our league, but I think other teams in the world, too.”
“And the gameday experience is unmatched,” she adds.
Thompson got a taste of that experience when she came to the home game against Racing Louisville last season. “When I walked in, I was shocked, honestly, by the amount of people that were there,” she says. “The atmosphere that Angel City has created is super amazing. I just couldn't believe that this was a women’s soccer game in the NWSL. I have never experienced something like that.”
Getting to stay in LA is another bonus. “Being able to play in front of my family and friends is something that's really important to me,” she says. “LA is just such an amazing place, with different cultures and different people.”
Thompson’s family reflects that diversity; her mom’s side has Peruvian and Italian roots, while her dad’s side is Black, Irish, Filipino, and Spanish. Much of the family lives in the area, and Thompson herself is a third-generation Angeleno.
“I visit my grandparents frequently because they live in Burbank, so it's super easy to see them. My grandma always makes Peruvian dishes for me,” she says. “I'm upset that my mom didn't teach me how to speak Spanish, but I am taking Spanish, to stay in touch with my culture,” she adds.
Hometown crowds are something many young athletes dream of, but ultimately, Thompson is here to play soccer. “Being able to play against the best in the world every single day—I couldn't pass that up right now."