Riley Thompson’s goal is to one day celebrate a FIFA World Cup championship with the rest of the U.S. Women’s National Team as their teammate.
While she wasn’t able to keep up with the U.S. women as much as she would have liked, Thompson is doing her part to develop her game as a forward in hopes of one day competing on an international stage. In late June, Thompson and her IMG Academy teammates competed in the 2019 U.S. Soccer Development Academy Girls U-16/17 playoffs in California, making it all the way to the quarterfinal round.
It was just the second year the Development Academy has been in existence, and Thompson also competed in 2018 playoffs. Her biggest game was against Midwest United FC, in which Thompson scored two goals in a 2-1 IMG win on June 27 to advance her team to the quarterfinals. What made it even more special was the Development Academy picked the game as its featured game of the day, which meant it was livestreamed.
“It was a big deal,” Thompson said. “It was nerve-wracking, but it was super-fun. It’s what I want to do for the rest of my life, so experiencing that was fun.”
Since eighth grade, Thompson has been a student at IMG developing her skills against top-tier competition. Last year, she finished with 29 goals — first in the Development Academy in her age group — and she tallied 37 goals this past season, which was second in her age group. As a seventh-grader, she scored 29 goals to help West Lauderdale win the Class 4A state championship during the 2015-16 season before an opportunity to enroll at IMG presented itself.
“It seems like I just got here yesterday,” Thompson said.
Thompson said she feels like she’s gotten more consistent with scoring goals this year, which would account in the uptick of her total. With the IMG vs. Midwest United game being livestreamed, social media got to see just what the rising junior is capable of doing, as she scored on both a penalty kick and a shot from just outside the box that found the far right corner of the Midwest United goal. It was only two of her 37 this year, but Thompson said it was awesome watching those two get shared on Twitter.
“It’s very humbling,” Thompson said. “I’m very grateful my family has put me in this position.”
Now that she’ll be going into her fourth year at IMG, Thompson said she’s adjusted better to living in Bradenton, Florida, and being far away from home.
“I miss my family and friends a lot from home, but it’s cool to live on your own and get a college experience,” Thompson said. “I’m a lot more comfortable now, and I think it’ll be a great thing for me going into college because it’ll make balancing school and soccer easier.”
The USWNT won the World Cup final against the Netherlands 2-0 Sunday, which was one of the few games Thompson was able to watch. She also saw the U.S. beat France in the quarterfinals 2-1, a victory she and others weren’t expecting.
“I watched the France game in a restaurant, and everyone thought we would lose because it was in France, and the France youth team beat the U.S. before, but the U.S. pulled through and surprised a lot of people,” Thompson said.
After watching the U.S. win its second-straight World Cup final, Thompson said she thinks it will only further encourage young girls like her to pursue their dreams of one day making the USWNT. The U.S. women are currently fighting for pay equal to that of the members of the U.S. Men’s National Team, and Thompson said the women’s victory shows they’ve earned that right.
“They’ve worked hard to get where they are,” Thompson said.
Since watching a few World Cup games, Thompson said Megan Rapinoe has become her favorite player.
“She’s a game-changer,” Thompson said. “No matter how the game is going, she always tries her hardest. She can play outside forward and midfield, and no matter where she is she makes an impact.”
Rapinoe has been outspoken about issues like equal pay or not wanting to go to the White House to visit President Trump after winning the World Cup, opinions that sparked a lot of discussion and debate. She ended up as the highest scorer in the World Cup with six goals to earn the Golden Boot and was named its best player with the Golden Ball award. Her ability to put aside the chatter and perform on the biggest stage is something Thompson said she admires.
“It shows how big of a person she is,” Thompson said. “She proved herself, and I think that’s awesome for her and shows what a big person she is and how soccer is her passion.”
Thompson has yet to commit to play soccer in college, but as a rising junior, she is now eligible to take visits and plans to make a decision following those visits.