Most No. 1 draft picks have time to enjoy their success, celebrating with family and friends, or dreaming about their future professional sports careers.
Not so for soccer star Alyssa Thompson, who had to think about the more pressing matter of her classes the next morning.
The 18-year-old Thompson made headlines when she was selected as the No. 1 pick in the 2023 NWSL draft by Angel City FC in January, becoming the first high schooler in history to be drafted in the history of the league.
“I was very nervous,” she tells CNN Sport’s Amanda Davies.
“And just like all the emotions were coming to me at that moment. I just was really shocked and couldn’t believe this is really happening right now.”
Not to be overwhelmed by her status as a new NWSL star, the senior at Harvard-Westlake is adamant that she is still focused on school, even if she has to juggle her studies with a professional soccer career.
“Once I’m done with practice, I don’t have another thing to do. So I think I’ll do my schoolwork,” she says. “As long as it gets me to graduate, I’ll do it.”
Thompson is no stranger to balancing school and soccer – whether its weekend trips to tournaments or training camps – and in October she went one better, making her debut for the US Women’s National Team in a friendly against European Champion England in London.
In front of a packed-out Wembley Stadium, Thompson was subbed on for USWNT superstar Megan Rapinoe, a moment that will stay with her for life.
“That was so crazy! I don’t know how to describe it. I was just really nervous, and I was going in for Megan Rapinoe!” she recalls. “I don’t think I was even processing it in the moment.”
Thompson will have to get used to lining up with the biggest stars in the sport. Angel City boasts a line-up of celebrity owners, including Serena Williams, Natalie Portman, Becky G, Eva Longoria and Mia Hamm.
And the stars are not limited to the sidelines. When the NWSL season kicks off next month, Thompson will be a part of an all-star team featuring two-time world champion Christen Press and Thompson’s personal hero Sydney Leroux.
Thompson is not only breaking records as the first high school No. 1 draft pick. She also became the first player of Peruvian and Filipino heritage to be picked at No. 1, something that is not lost on her.
Despite her youth, Thompson doesn’t simply want to play soccer, but she also wants to be the inspiration for the next generation of girls playing the game.
“I think that being able to be a woman of color just as a role model for little girls is such an amazing thing,” she tells CNN Sport. “Being able to look up to someone that looks like them is such a cool thing to have.”
Thompson is used to being a role model having served as one for her younger sisters, Gisele and Zoe, her whole life. Both want to emulate Thompson’s success.
Gisele is already on that path after becoming the first high school player, along with Alyssa, to sign a name, image and likeness deal with Nike. She also has emulated her older sister by playing for the USWNT youth teams, featuring at the FIFA U-17 Women’s World Cup.
The pair have been inseparable, playing together from when they could walk all the way to the present, where they have featured together for the Total Futbol Academy of MLS Next, a boys’ team in Southern California.
Despite Thompson’s youth, she already sees herself as far more than just an athlete – someone who has the power to inspire a new generation of soccer players in the US.
“For my youngest sister, Zoe, being able to just be an inspiration for her and a role model for her to look up to, I think has really helped me put things into perspective for what I really want to do and how I want to be a role model for little kids,” she says.
While making her NSWL debut in Los Angeles is first on Thompson’s to-do list, the far bigger prize is in Australia and New Zealand in the shape of the Women’s World Cup, which kicks off in July.
Having tasted international senior soccer in October and now training regularly with USWNT players at club level, Thompson is hungry to be a part of the biggest showpiece in women’s soccer.
It’s a tall order for the young striker. The US boasts the deepest pool of players to choose from of any team and is coming into the tournament as the reigning champion, albeit on a low ebb.
Both of Thompson’s appearances for the team came in losses to England and Spain before the US lost to Germany, marking the first time the team has lost three games in a row since 1993.
Head coach Vlatko Andonovski has very little margin for error as he looks to lead the US to a third consecutive title and Thompson will have to seriously impress if she wants to make it onto the plane heading across the Pacific.
“I’m going to do everything that I can to be able to make the roster and I’m just going to work hard towards that goal,” Thompson says.
“If I continue to grow as a player and continue to thrive in the NWSL environment, then I feel like I have a chance.”
A slim chance, maybe, but Thompson is no stranger to making the seemingly impossible look routine.