Eleven months ago, Angel City made Alyssa Thompson the first high school player to be selected with the top pick in the NWSL draft, then signed her to a three-year contract. Last week, the team came back to the same house in Studio City and signed a three-year deal with Thompson’s younger sister, Gisele, one that will make her one of the richest high school seniors in the country.
Which raises one very important question: When will the girls’ 12-year-old sibling Zoe turn pro?
“Let’s not put that out there,” Mario Thompson, the girls’ father, said with a laugh. “It’s already stressful enough having two.”
The deal with Gisele, which was originally discussed a year ago but wasn’t agreed to until last Friday, will be formally announced Thursday. The timing of the contract was important because if she had waited until Dec. 2 — her 18th birthday — NWSL rules would have forced her to declare for the draft, said her agent Takumi Jeannin. The Utah Royals have the No. 1 pick in the draft and Angel City’s first selection doesn’t come until late in the third round, but as a 17-year-old Gisele was free to pick the team she would join and she wanted to play with her sister in Los Angeles.
“Growing up, it was like, ‘Hey, you go to high school, then you go to this great college, then you go on in life and figure life out.’ For it to kind of get sped up to ‘Man, I’m doing something that I love and enjoy. And it’s my job. And I’m doing it with my sister and I’m doing it at home,’ it’s just crazy even to kind of talk that through,” Mario Thompson continued.
Gisele’s contract, which also has an option year, will reportedly pay her a base salary of about $525,000, in addition to a signing bonus and housing stipend, which are worth another $100,000-plus, according to people familiar with the deal not authorized to discuss it publicly. It is one of the richest deals for a teenager. Alyssa’s contract is worth $1 million. Gisele, who still has more than a semester of classes at the Harvard-Westlake School to finish, had drawn the interest of French club Paris Saint-Germain. But the chance to play beside her sister at Angel City, where she has trained for much of the last year, was too good to pass up.
“I always wanted to turn pro, but I didn’t think it would happen this fast. And honestly, I wasn’t even thinking about it. I was thinking about Stanford, going to college,” Gisele said Tuesday after stepping out of her English class to take a phone call. “But having Alyssa go pro, it really made it become reality. Seeing everything that she’s been through has helped me make my decision because I know what to expect.”
Alyssa, 19, who played on the U.S. team in last summer’s World Cup, appeared in 22 games for Angel City in all competition in her rookie season, finishing second on the team with four goals. The two sisters, who are also best friends, carpooled from the Valley to Angel City training sessions at Cal Lutheran, with Alyssa often driving the first leg and Gisele the second.
“It feels surreal to have Gisele joining Angel City and I am so excited about it,” Alyssa said via email while training with the U.S. women’s national team. “We’ve talked and dreamed about this for so long. We have been playing soccer together since we were 5 or 6, maybe even younger. She’s been my best friend and confidant. She’s honestly my biggest supporter and I’m hers, too. Now that we’re going to play together professionally, especially in our hometown and in front of our family and friends, it’s going to be so much fun. We have such a great understanding of each other, on and off the field. We know how to push and support each other.”
The fact Gisele practiced with the team all summer gave Angel City a chance to see her up close over an extended period, said general manager Angela Hucles Mangano.
“That was great,” Hucles Mangano said. “Also for her to have an ability to come in and see what the environment is like. She has more insight into what she’s getting into, especially with such a big decision of going from high school to playing professionally.”
But even before they were driving each other to practice, the sisters were driving each other in their backyard, where they practiced with their dad.
“It was a unique dynamic,” Mario Thompson said. “They always have each other. I’d say, ‘Alyssa and Gisele, let’s go.’ And they go at each other and make each other better.”
There were times, Mario said, when one of the two didn’t want to train. But they were so competitive, neither wanted to quit — nor see her sister carry on alone.
“I think they had always envisioned at some point playing together,” said Karen Thompson, the girls’ mother. “But now, for them to be able to play professionally together, that’s beyond exciting for our family.”
It’s probably a safe bet no club team has ever had two sisters on its roster who had combined to play in three World Cups, one at the senior level and two at the age-group level, before either had turned 19. And the two girls still share the same bedroom, though that may soon change.
“We’ve been wanting to move out. But I had to turn 18 first,” Gisele said. “We don’t want to live in our [parents’] house forever.”
The sisters are among 15 current NWSL players — including World Cup veterans Thompson, Savannah DeMelo and Ashley Sanchez — who got their start with the Santa Clarita Blue Heat, which plays in the national pro-am United Women’s Soccer league.
“I honestly think Gisele has an advantage over me,” Alyssa said, noting her sister watched every step of her transition to the NWSL level last season. “I think she’ll be more prepared for this journey than I might have been last year at this time. But any support or advice she needs, I’ll be there for her.”
Angel City, which has picked up contract options on attacker Jun Endo and defender Merritt Mathias and agreed to a two-year contract extension with goalkeeper Angelina Anderson already this offseason, still has some work to do on its roster. Defender Sarah Gorden and midfielder Savannah McCaskill, the only players to start all 23 NWSL games last season, are both out of contract, as are midfielders Madison Hammond and Dani Weatherholt and forward Simone Charley.
McCaskill, the franchise’s all-time leading scorer with 11 goals in two seasons, has reportedly narrowed her choices down to two teams, one of which is Angel City, according to Jeannin, who is also McCaskill’s agent.