Alyssa Thompson was the top pick in the National Women’s Soccer League draft on Thursday by Angel City, becoming the first high school player to be selected in the history of the league.
Thompson, an 18-year-old forward out of Harvard-Westlake High School in Los Angeles, declared her eligibility for the draft late last week. She initially committed to Stanford.
“It’s a crazy feeling,” said Thompson, who watched the draft from her home in Los Angeles. “And I’m so happy that I get to be surrounded by my friends and family. I’m just really excited. My heart’s beating really fast.”
Thompson made her debut with the US senior national team last year while also playing for the under-19 Total Futbol Academy boys’ team in MLS NEXT. Thompson and her younger sister, Giselle, also became the first high school players to sign a name, image and likeness deal with Nike last year.
“Alyssa Thompson, for us, is a phenom and generational player. 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,” said Angela Hucles Mangano, ACFC’s general manager. The team traded for the top pick last week in order to land Thompson.
The Kansas City Current selected Duke forward Michelle Cooper, winner of the MAC Hermann Trophy for best college player, with the second pick of the draft. The Current acquired the pick in a trade with Gotham for forward Lynn Williams.
In the hours before the draft, NWSL commissioner Jessica Berman spoke to reporters at length about the state of the 12-team league, which is preparing for its 11th season amid ongoing fallout from a pair of investigations into coach misconduct.
The NWSL is implementing the recommendations stemming from its own investigation – conducted jointly with the players association – into the scandals that first rocked the league in 2021. A lengthy report was released in December.
The investigations began after two players accused longtime NWSL coach Paul Riley of harassment and sexual coercion in a story published by The Athletic in September 2021. Coach of the North Carolina Courage at the time, Riley was fired. He denies the allegations.
Riley was among five NWSL coaches who resigned or were dismissed that year, with the repercussions extending into last season.
Earlier this week, the league permanently banned four coaches, including Riley, and imposed other sanctions. Berman said the NWSL will now focus on making lasting change.
“Systemic reform is not something that can be a box check. Unlike factfinding and corrective action, which is something that had to be on a to-do list, systemic reform is an ongoing commitment,” Berman said. “We will continue to work and learn and listen.”
Berman also noted that the NWSL’s media agreement with CBS expires at the end of the season, and the league is looking at its options.
The NWSL is expected to name two expansion teams to join the league in 2024, and Berman said the league is “closing in on a decision.” Additionally, the Portland Thorns and the Chicago Red Stars are currently up for sale.
Berman said that this season will be the first that the league utilizes a Video Assistant Referee, or VAR, for games.