LOS ANGELES — Serena and Venus Williams. Nneka and Chiney Ogumike. Sam and Kristie Mewis. American sports have had numerous siblings grace the fields of their respective games. They have left behind (or are currently leaving) legacies that few players will match. But there are sisters in Southern California who may be up to the task: Alyssa and Gisele Thompson.
Alyssa took the soccer world by storm in her rookie season. At 18 years old, her speed and skill were difficult to defend. She regularly made runs behind the opponent’s back lines by using her quick speed and drew attention in matches, creating space for her teammates.
In Alyssa’s NWSL debut, she scored a goal from outside of the box after using a fake to create space. The goal was one of four she scored during her rookie season, often displaying remarkable skill.
On Dec. 6, Angel City announced the signing of Alyssa’s younger sister, Gisele, making them the youngest sister duo on the same NWSL team. Gisele, similar to Alyssa, is fast, but as an outside back, she uses her talents in different ways. She is a capable defender with an aggressive approach. Gisele likes to join the attack, creating for herself or her teammates.
Gisele trained with Angel City at various points in 2023 before becoming a part of the team. Despite facing experienced players, she displayed consistency in training sessions. Her teammates and coaches were impressed with such talent.
“I remember (Angel City head coach) Becki (Tweed) coming back in from training, like Gisele’s so good today. She’s so good,” said general manager Angela Hucles Mangano. “It’s nice and promising for players to show up and be that good and that switched on, but it was more so her consistency in doing that, and that’s the difference. When you get to this level, there has to be an element of that consistency.”
Alyssa and Gisele faced off during such training sessions, but their bond was evident throughout as they laughed through drills together. Off the field, whether they were doing interviews, taking photos, or recording videos for social media, they usually did it with smiles on their faces.
“We’re super close,” Gisele said. “We’ve done everything together since day one. She’s my built-in best friend. We laugh at everything together. We’re almost twins, basically. So we read each other’s minds.”
“Our relationship could be described as like twins,” Alyssa said. “We have always been at each other’s hip from the time that I can remember, and I’m so excited that she’s coming on to Angel City.”
Such a bond has allowed the Thompson sisters to thrive on the field together. While they have not played on the same team for a few years, their connection has not faltered. Alyssa trusts Gisele and can play more aggressively with her on the field. She is less afraid of making mistakes because she has faith in Gisele’s ability to stop the counter-attack. Growing up together helped them develop solid chemistry, a trait that could grow as they play for Angel City.
“She makes the runs, I make the through balls, and I do the overlaps. We work so well together,” Gisele said. “We read each other really well in our body positions. Just one look, we’ll know what we want to communicate.”
“We complement each other,” Alyssa said. “Whenever I’m on the field with her, I totally trust her, and I feel more comfortable when I’m on the same team as her.”
Making the transition straight from high school to the professional ranks is no easy task, though. But the Thompson sisters have the tools needed to succeed in it. Hucles Mangano praised their preparation and values. She mentioned their ability to adapt to Angel City’s training environment quickly, which is rather rare for players of such a young age.
Alyssa and Gisele also have the support of veteran defender and captain, Ali Riley, who has taken them under her wing. Alyssa and Ali formed a close relationship in 2023. One time, Riley even went to English class with Alyssa at Harvard-Westlake School. Riley attended Harvard-Westlake as well, graduating in 2006, compared to Alyssa, who finished in 2023.
Through such a relationship, Riley has given Alyssa advice, something she can do for Gisele. Riley and Gisele play the same position (right back), so the guidance could be particularly useful for Gisele.
“She’s (Riley’s) been a great mentor,” Gisele said. “She’s been so welcoming to me and Alyssa. And Alyssa has gotten really close with her, so she’s become one of our closest friends. She’s my mentor through this whole process, so it’s really great.”
While Riley is giving Gisele advice, she does not want much credit for her development. She believes Gisele already has many of the traits needed to succeed in the NWSL and expects Alyssa to show her the ropes while she contributes with “words of wisdom.”
“She (Gisele) does not need mentoring,” Riley said. “She’s a fantastic player. She’s going to be such a great teammate. It’s gonna be so fun to see her and Alyssa creating magic together. For them, it’s still such a unique situation; it’s still very new, not going to college, and there aren’t other people their age on the team. For them to have each other and for us to have this kind of family relationship will be so fun. And I think Alyssa is going to be mentoring Giselle and showing her the ropes. And then if they need any words of wisdom for someone a little bit older, who’s been around for a while, I’ll always be there for them.”
As the Thompson twins grow in their first season together, each has areas they want to improve. Alyssa was a finalist for NWSL Rookie of the Year in 2023 and hopes to build on her game in 2024. She wants to grow her confidence, adding consistency to her performances. She had a 12-appearance scoring drought in the middle of her rookie year after scoring three goals in her first six games
“I just want to put out consistent performances where I’m playing really well,” Alyssa said. “And growing confidence as I continue to grow older. I want to be more confident in myself and my abilities. I can do that by just knowing that I put in everything that I could before I went into the season, and just be confident.”
Gisele feels she is an easily coachable player and has already built a relationship with Tweed. She will work on advice regarding performance, but she wants to become more vocal.
“Something I could definitely work on is communication because I’m a very quiet person, and my actions speak louder than my words,” Gisele said.
The Thompson sisters have found tremendous success on many of the teams they have played for. Next, on the same team, they intend to use their bond to dominate in the NWSL. Each is skilled in their respective positions and can play off each other with ease. They are still young and have identified areas of growth, but have the tools and talent to be women’s soccer stars and possibly the next great sibling duo.
Angel City brings them in with the hope of creating a culture of sustained winning. They made it to the playoffs for the first time in 2023 and hope 2024 and beyond is filled with NWSL Championships. They plan to support the duo, leading the team into a prosperous future.
“Every one of our players, it’s about building culture, building a winning environment, and then winning on the pitch,” said co-founder and president Julie Uhrman. “Both Gisele and Alyssa are competitors, and they want to win, and they’re good enough to win. So we just have to provide all the tools and support to give them the environment to do what they do best.”