Alyssa Thompson leads U.S. team's youth wave for 2023 World Cup

By Felix Hawthorne July 1, 2023

Prodigious teenager Alyssa Thompson is ushering in a new era of diverse young talent for U.S. Women's soccer as the World Cup tournament approaches, signaling increasing inclusivity within the sport.

When 37-year-old Megan Rapinoe was substituted by the 17-year-old prodigy, Alyssa Thompson, during a game against England last October, the contrast was hard to miss. However, the epic face-off at Wembley Stadium was merely the start of a vibrant journey for the teenage footballer.

Now at 18, Thompson has dramatically risen through the ranks, securing her spot in the U.S. World Cup team bound for New Zealand. She etches her name in history as the second-youngest American to be part of the women's World Cup roster, closely following Tiffany Roberts from 1995.

Thompson's selection signifies not just youth but also the arrival of a fresh, diverse range of talent. These newcomers are setting the stage for an intriguing contest as the prestigious tournament proceeds. Among the 23 players chosen by head coach Vlatko Andonovski, 14 are newcomers. They will join the seasoned ranks of Morgan, Rapinoe, Lindsey Horan, Rose Lavelle, Crystal Dunn, and Alyssa Naeher.

Thompson’s journey to the spotlight had humble beginnings. Recollections of backyard soccer sessions with her father, maneuvering skillfully between cones, harks back to her early affinity for the sport. A call-up to a U.S. Soccer youth team during her middle school days proved a turning point, cementing her path in the sport.

From early promise to undeniable talent, Thompson’s meteoric rise knows no bounds. A commitment to Stanford University at 15 and a groundbreaking NIL deal with Nike, signed alongside her soccer-prodigy younger sister, Giselle, further amplified her fame. When Thompson decided to turn professional during high school, yet another benchmark was set – the first high schooler to be chosen first overall in the NWSL draft.

Balancing her final year at Harvard-Westlake High with a victorious inaugural season at Angel City FC, Thompson’s extraordinary journey continued to inspire. Her elite performance at Angel City F.C., marked by scoring her first professional goal in an international friendly, only solidified her place in the national team.

Thompson’s versatility extends beyond soccer fields to racetracks. While garnering accolades at Angel City, she continued to compete for her high school track team, displaying her explosive speed by clocking the second-fastest time in California for a 100-meter dash.

Representative of the new generation of U.S. Soccer players, Thompson, of Peruvian and Filipino heritage, is part of the eight Black or Hispanic members on the team, signaling a marked diversification compared to the all-white team of 2015 World Cup final. This shift in demographics reflects a broader pattern of inclusivity, encouraging increased minority participation in a traditionally elite-dominated sport.

This ongoing transformation of U.S. soccer is reflected in the World Cup team, characterized by more youth and ethnically diverse players occupying key positions. The spotlight is now fixated on Thompson and the new ranks, as anticipation builds around the coach’s game-time plans. Regardless, Thompson’s remarkable journey and potential off-the-bench contributions remain a captivating storyline in the upcoming tournament.