Angel City FC selected 18-year-old forward Alyssa Thompson as the first overall pick in the 2023 NWSL Draft on Thursday.
Thompson, a senior at Harvard-Westlake University in Los Angeles, became the first high school player in NWSL history to be drafted at No. 1.
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“Honestly, it’s really surreal,” Thompson told ESPN. “I’m proud to be named alongside other first picks like Naomi Girma, Sophia Smith, Andy Sullivan. They’re all fantastic players and it’s great for me to be another name on that list.
“A year ago, I never thought I would be the first high school student to get this position.”
Following Thompson’s selection, NY/NJ Gotham FC traded the No. 2 pick to the Kansas City Stream in exchange for USWNT player Lynn Williams, and the Current used that pick on Duke forward Michelle Cooper. The Orlando Pride selected Florida State defender Emily Madrid with the No. 3 pick, while Gotham FC used the No. 4 pick to take her teammate Jenna Naigswonger, a central midfielder.
Angel City acquired the pick used on Thompson in a three-team trade with the Portland Thorns and NY/NJ Gotham FC last week, giving the club their 2023 first-round pick (No. 5), their top 2024 second-round pick and Thorns midfielder Yazmin Ryan allocated money for the purchase.
Angel City then finalized the deal by sending Ryan and an additional $250,000 to Gotham FC for the first overall pick. The Thorns used the No. 5 pick from Angel City on Alabama midfielder Reyna Reyes, the 2022 SEC Defensive Player of the Year.
“It’s an incredible statement that we’re bringing Alice to Angel City as our No. 1 pick, and what we’ve done to be a No. 1 pick. We didn’t have that,” Angel City general manager Angela Hucles Mangano told ESPN.
“We wanted to look at both the short-term and the long-term in our strategy…so the ability to bring in a player like Alyssa allows us to do all of that.”
Thompson, who won the 2021 Gatorade National Girls Soccer Player of the Year, made her national team debut in September as a 17-year-old. In the 83rd minute of the friendly against England, Thompson joined Meghan Rapinoe and deservedly made it. first international bag.
Last June, Thompson and her younger sister Giselle made history as the first high school athletes to sign a name, image and likeness deal with Nike.
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Huckles Mangano added: “He’s a player who can make an impact now, who can boost our environment, bring us closer to our goals of winning the championship faster than our long-term strategy.
“He’s got a lot of years ahead of him; he’s a player who can develop. He’s our phenom, our generation player who can come to Angel City. … It wasn’t easy for us.”
Thompson, who has verbally committed to play at Stanford next year, said the decision to play professionally was a difficult one. Days before the NWSL draft registration deadline last week and after much discussion with her family, Thompson said she has decided to turn pro. He had been in contact with Angel City for the past two months.
“It was the hardest decision for me,” Thompson said. “But at the end of the day, I think it’s the best thing to do at this point.”
Thompson told ESPN that his decision was largely driven by his ability to get a higher education while playing professionally, something Angel City has stressed since their initial talks.
“From the beginning, if I’m going to be a pro, I’m still going to learn,” Thompson said. “I want to keep getting better and I still have a chance to go to college, so why don’t I do it?”
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According to Thompson’s parents, the decision to turn pro was made easier by having a predictable path to playing professionally while earning a degree. Thompson’s father, Mario, added that they are still working on a plan and where Thompson will attend classes next year, but steps are in motion to make it happen.
After the NWSL season begins on March 25, Thompson will take online classes to finish high school and attend classes at Harvard-Westlake when her schedule allows.
When it comes to supporting not only his final year but also his senior year, Angel City said that even though he is in his second year, they want the club to set the standard for support for their players and beyond. field.
“We’re obviously very committed and we want to be that club and environment where whoever you are and whatever stage you’re at in your career, you have the opportunity to develop,” Huckles Mangano said.
“It could be someone at the end of their career; it could be someone coming out of high school. But you still have room to improve. I think that’s on and off the field.”
He added: “I understand where it is [the Thompson family] It’s very easy for us to say that this is what Angel City wants to do for you, Alice. But also all our players.”
Last September, Thompson, a Los Angeles native, attended his first Angel City game as a fan. Watching Angel City take on Racing Louisville in their home stadium, Banc of California Stadium, Thompson sat in the stands with family and friends and enjoyed the full Angel City experience.
“I was shocked because I’ve never been to a game like this, especially women’s football. The fans are so loud and there’s a whole fan section,” Thompson said. “I got to see everything up close and it was great to see.”
It was also, Thompson said, one of the first times he thought about what it would feel like to play for his home team.
“When I saw them, I was just like, ‘Wow, it would be great to play here,'” Thompson said. “Now knowing that I’m going to play there in front of my family, friends and fans, I wouldn’t want to be anywhere else.”
Despite missing the NWSL playoffs last season, Angel City played in front of four sellouts and averaged 19,105 fans for 11 home games.
With the return this spring of Kristen Press, who suffered a torn ACL last season, and a star-studded roster including one of Thompson’s idols, Sidney Leroux, Angel City told ESPN it expects Thompson to adapt quickly to the professional environment and compete immediately. for start time.
“My expectation is that he’s going to come in and compete,” Huckles Mangano said. “He’s going to help raise the bar for others with his competitive nature. That’s what we want to create and have our culture because that’s what we need to create and be this championship. kind of team.”
On the court, Thompson said she is confident in her one-on-one skills thanks to the countless hours she spends training with her younger sister and youth team defender Gisele Thompson.
“I hope I can score goals for them, I hope I can continue to improve and grow as a player,” said Thompson, who compared his performance to France’s Kylian Mbappe.
“I think with my speed I can beat defenders anywhere in the front line, I can run behind the back line, take on defenders and shoot a lot, so I think I can create scoring opportunities and help a lot. My teammates and if I get the ball If I lose, being able to defend and rebound so we can attack.”
Thompson, who is hoping to make the U.S. women’s national team in 2023 in New Zealand and Australia, said she knows all too well the pressure that comes with being the No. 1 pick. But, he added, he feels “ready for this moment.”
“I’ve put a lot of work into this and I have to remind myself that I can do it and I’m ready to do it,” Thompson said. “Pressure makes diamonds, so hopefully I can flourish.”