A few years ago, in an airport in Florida, a man came up to Santa Clarita Blue Heat President Carlos Marroquin and told the owner he should take a look at his niece Alyssa Thompson.
Marroquin, as the founder of the well-known pro-am women’s soccer team, fielded plenty of these requests. He still asked how old Thompson was.
“Fourteen,” Thompson’s uncle responded.
“Ah, she’s too young,” Marroquin remembered saying.
Two months later, though, Thompson came out for a scrimmage against a team from Orange County.
“She killed everybody,” Marroquin said.
Such has been the life of Alyssa Thompson, the 18-year-old soccer prodigy from Harvard-Westlake. When she was 7, she was dusting teenagers. When she was in sixth grade, she was dusting high schoolers. When she was in eighth grade, she was dusting college kids. On and on, and Thompson’s legend has been built, winning the Gatorade High School player of the year in 2021 after a 48-goal season and subbing in for Megan Rapinoe at 17 to make her USWNT debut in September.
And as a senior in high school, she sat on a white couch Thursday for an NWSL draft party inside Nike’s campus in Playa Vista, taking deep breaths before applaudingas Angel City FC selected her with the first overall pick. It was an inevitability — Angel City tossing in picks and cash and rainbows in orchestrating a three-team deal for the No. 1 pick to select Thompson — but also unprecedented, a teenager decommitting from Stanford to turn pro.
“For her now to be the first high school athlete selected No. 1 overall — when you really think about her whole career and trajectory — is not actually that surprising,” Harvard-Westlake girls’ soccer coach Richard Simms said. “She’s always been years ahead of everybody else … it’s just who she is.”
She was playing up once again Thursday, sitting with pink fingernails and white Nikes and a rapidly beating heart in a position normally reserved for 21-and-22-year-old college athletes. Thompson came straight from class to the draft party, Nike’s NIL signee beaming through a live mid-draft interview and call with Angel City coach Freya Coombe.
“I’m ready for everything,” she told Coombe.
Then she collapsed her head on the sofa for a second, slumping in sheer exhaustion and relief as a host of family and friends erupted in cheers around her.
Everything is, truly, a lot. Everything, for Thompson, is not only becoming the face of a second-year Angel City franchise — but also a trailblazer.
For a long time, UCLA women’s soccer coach Margueritte Aozasa said, women haven’t had the same opportunity as young men in the United States to bypass the collegiate game for the pros. Young women in soccer, Aozasa added, have had to rely on their education, because even the highest-paid players in the NWSL aren’t making “life-changing amounts of money.”
“I do think it’s indicative of the growth of women’s soccer in this country,” Aozasa, who recruited Thompson as an assistant at Stanford, said of the 18-year-old’s decision.
It was an agonizing decision to decommit, her family said. Particularly because her father, Mario, is an elementary school principal and values education.
“The dad always told us since we met,” Thompson’s agent Alan Naigeon said, “‘We’ll need something crazy to go [away from] Stanford.”
They got it, eventually, and it became too good to pass up. Thompson signed a three-year fully guaranteed deal with Angel City, according to her agents: a chance for her to stay in L.A., still live at home, and finish out her senior year while she goes through preseason in hopes of a spot on this summer’s women’s World Cup team.
And the decision to turn pro wouldn’t mean leaving college behind forever, Thompson emphasized — she’ll still be working toward her degree.
“I hope little girls look up to me and think that, ‘Oh, I really want to keep continuing my soccer career … but also not giving up that education portion,’” Thompson said.
Thompson will bring blazing track-star speed —, she recorded the second-fastest 100-meter time in California last year — to an Angel City team looking for a strong winger, according to President Julie Uhrman.
“You’re a witness right now,” Marroquin said, “to see the next-biggest star in the world.”