Meet The USYNT's Thompson Sisters
Teen soccer stars Alyssa & Gisele are gearing up to make waves in the women’s game.11 August 2022
Thompson sisters Alyssa, 17, and Gisele, 16, have a very bright future indeed. While Gisele started as a defender for the U-17 squad that recently won the COCACAF championship in the Dominican Republic, Alyssa is a forward for the U20 team that won gold in March in Santo Domingo, while she’s also set to be a part of the USWNT U20 World Cup squad. While their ages currently present certain restrictions to them featuring on the same sides, the pair have already shown a sixth sense when they have played together in the past, with Gisele only too aware of how to take advantage of her sister's sprinter speed. All in all it all bodes well for a future pairing on the international scene, but for now, the sisters are focused on taking their careers step by step.
So, which one of you fell in love with football first?
GISELE: I think we fell in love with football at the same time. We’ve done everything together, we started soccer together, so we just like, played together the whole entire time and fell in love with it together.
Was there a moment in time that particularly grabbed your attention? Who introduced you to it?
ALYSSA: Well we played a bunch of sports when we were younger, any sport our parents just put us in, and then after a while we just, I think since we were getting a lot better at soccer and having more fun with it and making connections with different types of people, for example through US soccer, we got to meet girls from around the country and stuff. I think that that for me was a big turning point in my game, especially. I just think after that I felt so much better about it, and I loved it a lot more.
GISELE: Yeah, I think the same. When I first went to a camp I was playing a year up too, so I was like, maybe I am pretty good! (LAUGHS) And we weren’t going to be that tall, so we had to pick a sport... probably not basketball or volleyball, so soccer was the right choice for us. We also were going to be pretty fast, so I think soccer was the best choice.
Has it always been something that you could genuinely imagine as a career? Has turning your talents into a career always been the aim?
ALYSSA: I feel like when I was younger, obviously not. I wanted to do something in sports obviously, because I – and we – was very competitive and I liked to win and stuff, so I gravitated towards kind of anything in sports. but once we started getting really good at it, I was like, "OK, if I put my mind to this, then I think I could be really good and have it become my profession".
That’s amazing. Across the globe women’s football hasn’t been given the visibility of the men’s side, so people didn’t really know that it could be a career. The USWNT has paved the way for players of your generation, does it feel like that?
GISELE: Yeah. I think when we were little I always used to look up to Alex Morgan because, you know, she’s a big name, and she’s a really great soccer player, and we went to her camp one time, and we just really looked up to her, seeing her as an inspiration. Especially all the people – or all the women – on the national team... I really looked up to them, and just wanted to be them, and push as hard as I could, and just, you know, play the game that they love as well.
ALYSSA: Yeah, definitely because the women that came before us, they kind of set a precedent for this new form of soccer... not new form but just women pushing the game further. And the 99’ers were the first to fully promote women’s soccer. So it was really cool to see that, and without them we wouldn’t be able to do this or get any of the stuff that we’re doing now, so it’s really amazing.
How would you describe the journey that you’ve both been on? From the outside, it’s like you think, wow these sisters are going through it together, smashing it, but it’s not always going to be all sunshine is it? Football isn’t linear…
GISELE: Yeah, I think sometimes there's a lot of pressure, but just having the family that we have, and all of our friends, that support system really helps us, you know, because we also have responsibilities at school as well. Getting good grades and going to Stanford, all of this, the academics, but also balancing soccer as well, it’s a lot of pressure, but just having the support system – and that includes our teachers as well, helping us with school, and our family being very open about having the balance of social life as well, so not always being stuck in soccer, academics, and having that free time as well.
What about going forward together? It must be special to team it up and help each other along?
ALYSSA: It’s the best thing ever, honestly, because no one is going through the same thing as me and Gisele, and if I was by myself it would be so much harder. Having my sister going through the exact same experiences means we can relate to each other on such a deeper level, which is so nice. I love that I have someone like that, because it gets stressful, and Gisele always keeps... well we always keep a light on each other, and we just try to make it not as serious as it is sometimes. So just having her is great (LAUGHS).
You can see when shooting, you guys can talk to each other through body language – you don’t have to say anything to know what the other is thinking…is that right? It shows how close you are…
ALYSSA: Yeah… (LAUGHING) definitely. We’re in sync and it’s just so nice, because honestly, without Gisele, I feel like I wouldn’t be the player I am today. I feel like I would still be good, it’s just that there would be so much extra on me mentally and stuff like that. Having her is just the nicest thing.
Without being a downer, a lot of people will talk about you both and make comparisons with Serena and Venus Williams. Is that something you kind of like or want to distance yourself from in terms of being coupled together in that sense?
GISELE: I think it’s nice to have her so that all of the attention's not on me or on her. So, having her just to be there when I need some help or something like that is perfect. But we also look up to Venus and Serena as well, so I think we wanna have that journey as well.
ALYSSA: Being compared to them is the coolest thing ever, for me at least, because they are such powerful women, and they’re sisters, and I feel like their story is so closely related to ours. So I honestly would love to be called "the next", or be coupled up with them in any sense. And they’re amazing people, and not just athletes, so it’s amazing honestly…
You both talk with such wisdom and that point on the 99ers is poignant. As you enter the game and get higher and higher up the ladder, are you very conscious about not just what you do on the pitch, but off it too?
ALYSSA: Yeah, yeah. Well, off the pitch I was just talking about with Serena, and we just want to promote being powerful women, and as the 99’ers were promoting equality towards women and men, and I feel like it’s already getting better that way too.
GISELE: Yeah, and just inspiring women, how we are, we’re a bunch of different cultures, so just having somebody that they can relate to, or look up to, and our parents always taught us to be a good person before being a good soccer player, student or anything, just being a good person to everyone.
Nice. And how would you describe the landscape of soccer in this country right now for women? Whether that’s those growing up and breaking into the game or the status of the game itself on the professional level?
ALYSSA: I think right now it’s obviously growing a lot, and the professional level is getting even better and the pro’s now... we didn’t even have a league before and now the league's growing, and more teams are joining. I think the status is becoming a lot better, and I think over the year it will become hopefully treated like the men’s, and how the men’s is treated, and just around the world, not just here, too.
You’ve both already been able to travel through football and see the world. Has that broadened your minds as well? Alyssa, for you and the U20 World Cup, going to Costa Rica is going to be special…
GISELE: Definitely. I love to travel as well, so just being able to play the sport I love and being able to travel with it is amazing, especially with the people that I’m with. I’m so close to all of my teammates, and whoever I go with, and whenever I travel, it’s usually with Alyssa, but you know, we’re on different teams now so it’s a lot different. But I think still having my teammates I’m really close with, it’s easy to manage it.
ALYSSA: Yeah definitely, and I think when I travel it’s so interesting, because I went to Sweden recently, and it was so much different from when I went to the Dominican Republic for Concacaf, and then we’re going to go to Costa Rica, and she’s going to go to Spain, it’s just so many different places. We went to Amsterdam too, and it’s just crazy to compare because without soccer I wouldn’t probably be going to all these places, so it’s honestly a blessing that we get to do that as well.
What about growing up with it in LA – what’s the scene like? Obviously, you’ve got the likes of Angel City started up fairly recently plus LA Galaxy and LAFC…
ALYSSA: Yeah. Soccer’s always been pretty big in LA... LA Galaxy for men’s at least, and LAFC, those have always been two good teams. But for girls I feel like most girls go into soccer when they’re younger – AYSO is the league close to us, for little girls, but I feel like it’s been pretty good.
GISELE: Yeah, I think it’s pretty good. Sometimes soccer is a lot of money, so not a lot of girls get into it as well. So just having the opportunity and being seen because I know a lot of boys get the opportunity to be seen by a lot of different soccer teams and just, for girls having that equality, it means a lot now.
Going back to something we talked about earlier – your love for the game – are you the kind of people that when you close your eyes, you’re thinking about soccer all the time, or how is it for you?
GISELE: I don’t think it’s like thinking about soccer all the time. There’s sometimes that I’m thinking about school or grades, you know, family and just my friends, so it’s not always soccer that’s on my mind. But it's a lot of the time… It's still the thought of having to do good, push hard, hard work, and you know, just keeping healthy.
ALYSSA: Yeah, soccer’s definitely on our minds a lot, but whenever we get the chance to take a break, we take it. We work really hard to be where we are right now, so we just try to have a balance; it’s not always soccer, soccer, soccer, or social, or always school, we try to balance everything out, so we can feel somewhat normal in our hectic life of soccer as well!
We’ve talked a lot about here and now, but the future… it’s a broad question, but what are your dreams and aspirations with football? What’s the limit? Is there one? It feels like the world is yours for the taking…
GISELE: Well, I don’t think there’s a limit for us, but we want to be the best and play on the full women’s national team, hopefully together, and win all of these trophies, you know: Olympics, and World Cup, but doing it together, not just by ourselves, because I think it would just be a better experience and a better feeling to do it together.
ALYSSA: Yeah, and the 2028 Olympics are here in LA, and that would be really cool to win it with Gisele here, which would be such a surreal moment. I really hope for that. That’s kind of a big goal for me.
You’ve got 2028 in your mind, and it’s just every day it’s kind of working towards that…
ALYSSA: Yeah, and every day is just working towards getting better, honestly, and if we continue to get better then I feel like we could do it.
Being signed by Nike as you were is massive. What things have you experienced so far that are the real massive milestones for you both? What are you most proud of?
GISELE: I think we won Concacaf, the U15 Concacaf together, and that was a pretty big moment for us. Because that was our first tournament for us with US soccer, and doing it together, and our dad was watching us too, it was just the best feeling to win with our team, and to win with Alyssa and also have a family member to support us.
ALYSSA: Yeah, it was definitely a big moment, to start off our US soccer journey too. Because after that I feel like, we both got better and we both got to go to more camps and stuff like that.
I guess that taste of success at a young age makes you only want more of that now?
ALYSSA: Yeah. Once you’ve experienced just a little, that feeling is with you for life. We only want to win. We’re competitive and hungry. After you win one game, you just want another so imagine those big experiences. Soccer has so many and I want to experience all it can offer, winning along the way.
Photography by SoccerBible.