How Alyssa Thompson’s U.S. women’s soccer dreams became a reality at 17

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Alyssa Thompson’s phone buzzed the morning of Tuesday, Sept. 27. It was a text message from U.S. women’s soccer coach Vlatko Andonovski asking when she’d be free for a Zoom call.

Thompson wasn’t sure why. But whatever it was it would have to wait until later. It was only 9 a.m.

“Vlatko called me two weeks prior to tell me I made the preliminary roster,” Thompson recalled. “He basically told me I’m on their radar. The text made me nervous.”

Dreams have a funny way of becoming reality. This one snuck up on Thompson pretty fast.

Andonovski cut straight to the point, telling Thompson she was being called up to play for the senior national team in its friendly matches against England (Oct. 7) and Spain (Oct. 11).

“I was speechless,” Thompson said. “My dad was hugging and shaking me. My mom started crying. I was shocked that this was even happening.”

“I’ve never seen my dad this excited in my life,” Thompson added. “I was trying to control my emotions and stay composed. He wouldn’t stop taking pictures and videos.”

Thompson, a 17-year-old senior at Harvard-Westlake High School in Studio City, was at LAX taking off for London five days later.

She says she went through a whirlwind of emotions and describes the 5,500-mile journey as an overwhelming experience.

“Nothing felt real,” she said. “Walking through the airport, I couldn’t stop thinking about playing with the full team at Wembley. It didn’t feel real until I was there talking to them. I just couldn’t wrap my head around it. I was telling people, ‘I’m going for soccer …?’”

She remembered the perks, too, flying as an unaccompanied minor for the United States whilst sifting through music on her phone, listening to her favorites like Taylor Swift, Lizzo, Drake and Mac Miller.

“I got to hang out in a nice lounge and fly business. There was a nice car when I arrived in England. It was cool,” she said laughing.


After Thompson touched down in London, she settled into her hotel, had a quick lunch, and then it was time to meet the team.

Star players she only knew from watching them on television, or from posters and her dreams were introducing themselves. She couldn’t believe it.

“I was nervous,” Thompson explained. “It was so weird when they all started introducing themselves on a first-name basis. Because I know them by full name, watching them on TV.”

“Since I started playing soccer, this is all I wanted to do.”

Can you imagine a first cap coming at age 17, in front of 76,000+ fans at Wembley?

For Alyssa Thompson, that dream was a reality.

— U.S. Women’s National Soccer Team (@USWNT) October 14, 2022

Thompson said meeting Megan Rapinoe, Lindsey Horan, Rose Lavelle and Crystal Dunn — players with a combined 523 appearances for the U.S. — was the most surreal.

“They were like, ‘Hey, I’m Megan’ … ‘Hi, I’m Lindsey …,’ Thompson told the Southern California News Group in an interview Monday afternoon. “I still can’t believe I was there.”

“Just meeting all these players that I’ve been looking up to my whole life. Seeing them in person and interacting with them. It was crazy to me,” she added.


Thompson didn’t just join the team for a cup of Gatorade, so to speak. She played in both games.

Her first playing time came against England in front of 80,000 fans at Wembley Stadium.

Thompson subbed into the game, replacing Rapinoe, in the 83rd minute. It made her the 70th teenager all-time to earn a cap for the USWNT and the youngest player to debut for the USA since January of 2016 when Mallory Pugh made her debut at 17 years and 269 days of age.

Thompson will turn 18 on Nov. 7.

Alyssa Thompson celebrates after scoring for the United States against Ghana during a Women’s U-20 World Cup match Aug. 11, 2022, at the Alejandro Morera Soto stadium in Alajuela, Costa Rica. (Photo by Ezequiel Becerra/AFP via Getty Images)

“The Wembley game … I was in. Then it stopped. It all happened so fast,” Thompson said. “I didn’t have time to process it. It was all so overwhelming. Even when I watched the game back on TV, I can’t believe it’s me out there.”

Her father, Mario Thompson, made the trip to Europe to watch both matches.

“When she subbed in I cried,” he said. “There were 80,000 people in that stadium. It was an unbelievable moment.”

Alyssa Thompson taking the field for U.S. women’s soccer in the 83rd minute. Thompson is a 17-year old senior in high school at Harvard-Westlake in Studio City. What a moment!

— Tarek Fattal (@Tarek_Fattal) October 7, 2022

Thompson said her phone was flooded with text messages after the match. The team gave Thompson the game ball in the locker room after the 2-1 loss.

Again, she was overwhelmed by the support by her new, nearby teammates and those thousands of miles away at home.

“It feels so good. I’ve worked really hard and it’s nice to be recognized and for people to be proud of me,” she said. “The support when I’m gone is what warms my heart … My little sister’s fifth grade class stopped the whole day to watch the game. I barely played, and they watched the whole thing.”

A few days later, Thompson played in the USA’s 2-0 loss to Spain at El Sadar Stadium in Pamplona. She subbed into the match in the 73rd minute.

“I felt very nervous. That was a big feeling,” Thompson said of her time on the pitch. “I didn’t want to mess up. The coaches told me there’s nothing I could do wrong. They tried to make me feel as comfortable as possible.”


Alyssa is the daughter of Mario and Karen Thompson. They are both San Fernando Valley natives. Mario went to Bishop Alemany High in Mission Hills and Karen went to Bell-Jeff in Burbank.

Mario, a school principal, was a standout football and basketball player, and he ran track at Alemany and Occidental College. Karen, an occupational therapist, played basketball.

Athletics runs in this family’s veins, but not soccer. Until now.

Alyssa’s younger sister Gisele, 16, is a standout soccer player, too. Gisele was in Dubai, training with the U.S. under-17 team for the U-17 World Cup, when Alyssa got called up.

Gisele, who plays right back, is on the national team’s radar, too.

Alyssa Thompson with father Mario Thompson and Harvard-Westlake coach Richard Simms (right) with a signed match ball after making her U.S. women’s soccer debut today in London at 17 years old. She earned her first cap after being subbed in the 83rd minute.

— Tarek Fattal (@Tarek_Fattal) October 7, 2022

It’s all been part of Mario’s plan.

“Alyssa and Gisele know I have high expectations for them,” he said of his daughters. “I just always felt like it was going to happen. It’s always been more like, ‘It’s going to happen, not a matter of if, but when.’ “

From a young age, Mario saw his girls evolve and develop in the sport. However, there was a point when the girls weren’t being challenged enough, even when playing against girls four or five years older.

He asked himself, “How can I meet their needs?”

They were scoring goals in bunches, winning awards and tournaments, but it wasn’t always getting them better. Mario decided it was time the girls started playing with boys.

“I was just trying to think outside the box. I reached out to Total Futbol Academy and asked if my daughters can train with their boys team,” Mario explained. “Then they just said to keep bringing the girls to training, and I knew it was an environment where they were being challenged. They couldn’t just get the ball and dribble through people. They learned the boys were faster, stronger and sometimes more skilled.”

“They had to figure out other ways to solve problems. That’s where it was very helpful. But maybe the biggest point to make from it was the girls had each other through it all.”

Alyssa and Gisele have already inked an NIL (name, image and likeness) deal with Nike. Both are committed to play for Stanford. However, Alyssa’s quick ascension to the national team – with the Nike swoosh in tow – has pegged her as the next big thing in U.S. women’s soccer.

Whatever comes, it’s nothing Mario hasn’t already thought of.

“Whatever she decides to do, whether she plays for Stanford or turns professional, she’ll be ready,” he said. “But first and foremost, we want her to be happy. She’s happy right now, and that’s all that matters.”


Thompson wants to play for the Harvard-Westlake girls soccer team this winter, if time permits. Her participation for the national team does not impact her amateur status or her high school eligibility.

She last played for the Wolverines as a sophomore during the CIF Southern Section’s abbreviated spring season in 2021 when nearly every high school sport was being played simultaneously after the COVID-19 pandemic subsided.

Alyssa Thompson takes a corner kick short, finds her right foot (and the angle) to bury the opening goal of the match in the 13th minute. Thompson now has 14 goals in 6 matches.

HW 1, Chaminade 0.

— Tarek Fattal (@Tarek_Fattal) April 7, 2021

Thompson scored 48 goals and had 14 assists in 17 matches to anchor Harvard-Westlake to an undefeated season (19-0). The program won the CIF-SS Division 1 title and CIF State SoCal Regional Division I crown. She was named the Daily News Player of the Year and 2020-21 Gatorade National Girls Soccer Player of the Year.

Due to commitments to U.S. soccer last season, she did not play high school soccer her junior year.

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