Alyssa Thompson has the U.S. on her chest and Peru in her heart

Alyssa Thompson on the field
Alyssa Thompson in action during a match with Spain.
(Juan Manuel Serrano Arce / Getty Images)
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This week, Alyssa Thompson will become the youngest player to represent the United States in a World Cup in the last 28 years. As if 2023 wasn’t already special enough for Thompson, she also made her professional debut with Angel City FC this past March at 18 years old.

Things seem to come fast for Thompson. But these achievements have come with a lot of sacrifice. She missed her high school graduation because Angel City played on the same night. She also missed her junior high graduation because she was representing the U.S. in a youth tournament in Holland.

Sus dos abuelos maternos son nacidos en Perú, mientras que sus abuelos paternos son de raíces filipinas y afroamericanas. Su abuelo, Ramiro Canani, llegó a Estados Unidos procedente de Tarma, Perú, a los 30 años.

July 17, 2023

All the hard work will pay off this week when the U.S. kicks off its title defense against Vietnam on Friday afternoon in one of the first matches of the Women’s World Cup taking place in Australia and New Zealand.

Thompson’s potential for stardom is clear with her mix of speed and tenacity. She also has the ability to attract new audiences of diverse fans who finally see a soccer star that looks like them


Her maternal grandparents come from Peru, while her paternal grandparents have a mix of African American and Filipino ancestry. Her grandfather Ramiro Canani came to the U.S. from Tarma, Peru at 30 and enlisted in the Army with the goal of establishing permanent residence to bring his wife, Silvia. Thompson and her grandparents, who reside in Burbank, live only 10 minutes apart.

Alyssa Thompson and her grandparents.
Alyssa Thompson and her Peruvian grandparents Silva and Ramiro Canani
(Photo provided by the family )

“It was great for my kids to see all the different sides of their background,” said Karen Thompson, Alyssa’s mother. “They all feel like they represent all of it.”

The U.S. team will be incorporating a new generation with 14 players making their World Cup debut. Along with the youth movement, the team also will be the most diverse in its history.

Alyssa Thompson is considered the brightest young star on the U.S. women’s national soccer team as she prepares to make her Women’s World Cup debut.

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“When you are in a position of power you have to understand that you are a role model for people who look like you, like it or not,” Karen Thompson said. “When she was young, very few people looked like her on the national team. With the growth of soccer, there are now more players like her and it makes her proud to be one of them.”

Alyssa Thompson and mother
Alyssa Thompson, with her mother, Karen, most likely will come off the bench for the U.S. at the World Cup.
(Roberto Cortés/Special for the LA Times en Español)

The national team has two players with Mexican roots, Sofia Huerta and Ashley Sanchez, also playing in their first World Cup.

Thompson acknowledges it’s a little “crazy” to be considered a role model at 18, but is looking forward to using her platform to motivate young players of color like her to come through the system.

“I want of players of color to look at me and to know that if they work hard, you too can become a role model,” Thompson said.

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Karen Thompson insists that Alyssa has a lot of her father’s personality, but on the field the Latina comes out.

“She works hard. She doesn’t let anyone push her around. And that is part of our culture — we have to work hard to get ahead,” Karen said. “In our community we work really hard for our families. And that is where her humility comes out. She doesn’t do it for fame, she does it for her family.”

Come Friday against Vietnam, that grit and fighting spirit may be on display. Thompson is penciled in to come off the bench and could become the team’s secret weapon thanks to her speed that can break down the opposing defense.


“She improvises and you never know what she is going to do,” said Vlatko Andonovski, the U.S. manager. “She can do one-on-one or one-on-two and can use her right or left foot. It is very difficult to mark her because she is so creative.”