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Lexi Missimo: The record-breaking USWNT hopeful who has already impressed Man City & Arsenal

15:00 GMT+3 25/11/2022
Lexi Missimo NXGN GFX
The 19-year-old is one of the United States' most exciting young talents and is already on the radar of some top Women's Super League clubs

To go pro or to stay at college? That is the question so many top women’s soccer talents in the United States have pondered in the last few years.

It was back in 2012 that Lindsey Horan, now a world champion with the U.S. women's national team, became the first female soccer player to skip college and turn professional. In the years since, it has become a much more common theme.

After Mallory Pugh became the first player to skip college to sign in the NWSL, the country's top league, in 2017, every top pick in the last four editions of the NWSL Draft has left college early to go pro. Trinity Rodman, the second pick in 2021, never even played for a university.

Now, it’s the turn of Alexis Missimo to think about that conundrum.

Daughter of Derek, the all-time leading goalscorer at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, she’s already had an eye-catching college career herself, despite the second full year of it having not yet concluded.

Whether she decides to build on that in a professional sense in the coming months or she waits until she graduates college will eventually be trivial, as there are few doubts she has history to make when she gets there.

So, who is Missimo and what makes her so highly-rated? NXGN explains…

  • Trinity Byars Angela Kelly Lexi Missimo archive

    Where it began

    Missimo was only little when she was picking up her first trophies – but they weren’t for soccer.

    “My sister played and I was actually the mascot for that team,” she tells NXGN, with awards marked ‘mascot’ given her to when they won tournaments. “I would wear a cheerleader outfit and I'd go to every one of her games. I just saw how she was with her team-mates and I just fell in love with the sport.”

    Soon after, she would begin playing with Solar Soccer Club, one of the most successful soccer programmes in the States. There, she’d meet her best friend, Trinity Byars, another incredibly exciting American whose talent means she can certainly think about going pro, too. “She’s having a great season,” Missimo adds. “She'll probably be the Offensive Player of the Year.”

    A few years later, the pair would commit to the University of Texas when they were still in the eighth grade.

    “It would have been a guesstimated risk for more coaches because you're going on the assumption that they're going to continue to develop,” Angela Kelly, coach of the Texas Longhorns tells NXGN. “But with those two, it was like blue chippers. You knew that they were destined to do great things in the game.”

    “We're kind of just a package deal,” Missimo adds. “We went together and I just thought, 'If I have her, we'll be a solid team in general'.”

  • Lexi Missimo United States 2019

    The big break

    There hasn’t been an explosive moment that announced Missimo to the world, but rather a hype that has built steadily while she has posted insane numbers year after year.

    In 2019, she scored 62 goals and provided 49 assists in just 32 games for Solar in the U.S. Soccer Girls Development Academy. Those kind of stats make people take notice – with her ranking at No.4 in the NXGN lists of both 2021 and 2022.

    A regular in the youth national teams from the age of 13, Missimo was ranked as the No.1 recruit in the country upon graduating high school, with the curiosity around how she would do at the next level certainly piquing at that time.

  • Lexi Missimo Texas 2021

    How it’s going

    Both Manchester City and Arsenal have told Missimo that they have opportunities for her should she decide to go pro. That’s a good indicator of how it is going for her.

    The teenager trained with City twice in 2019, experiences she says were “everything that I thought [they] were going to be”.

    “That was the best soccer I've ever played, personally. I was nervous because I wanted to perform, but also it was like playing with likewise players, and I really liked it.”

    Earlier this year, she won the CONCACAF Women’s Championship with the U.S. Under-20 national team, named in the tournament’s Best XI after scoring three goals.

    “She missed six games this season and she's leading the country in assists, still,” Kelly says, speaking to NXGN during an incredible 2022 season for Missimo.

    “She broke the record for assists in a season [at Texas] just in the last match... She's just dynamic. She changes the game whenever she's in it.”

  • Lexi Missimo Texas 2022

    Biggest strengths

    “She's got everything,” says Eddie Pope, a man who can be trusted to spot talent having represented the U.S. men's national team 82 times and played for his country at three World Cups.

    Pope is now an agent and has been advising the Missimo family in recent years, having gone to the same university as Derek and become friends with him through those connections.

    “You don't typically see someone that has that many different aspects to their game, at her age. She can shoot with both feet really well. She's got great size, great speed, great pace. She's physical and strong. She's good in the air.

    “She can play in the middle, but she can also play up top as a striker - a striker that might want to get in behind the defence, a striker that runs off the shoulders of the defenders because she has the pace to do it. But she can also play as a striker that holds the ball up in front of the defenders because she can pass so well.

    “Her soccer IQ is really, really high, so she can also play as a withdrawn striker that comes really deep into the midfield to kind of unbalance the defence. She can be in a bunch of different spots. She's good enough to play as a six or an eight.”

    “I think I can read the game better than I did before the [national team] camps and also that's just about learning how to grow up,” Missimo adds herself.

    “My dad was my coach, who has taught me a lot - he taught me everything I know about soccer - so him and the national team camps have taught me how to be more technical, how to be more aware of the game and how to be professional overall.”

  • Lexi Missimo Texas 2021

    Room for improvement

    It’s difficult to pick out any glaring weaknesses in such a complete game, despite Missimo’s young age. It feels more like her further progress will be in refining each area.

    “I would say I would like to develop more in attacking plays,” she says. “I'm very dynamic and I'll play a lot of assists, but it's becoming more dynamic when it comes to running at people, like an explosive touch past defenders. I want to get faster.”

    “She just has to continue to do her thing,” Kelly adds. “I'm constantly encouraging her to become more and more mature and just helping her along there so that when [big opportunities] do present themselves, she's ready to step right in and take it.

    “The game's continuing getting faster and she's progressing at a quicker curve than that, which is exciting to see.”

  • Lindsey Horan USWNT 2021

    The next… Lindsey Horan?

    One possible player of comparison that has been touted as Missimo’s profile has grown is Horan, who made that historic decision to forgo college 10 years ago.

    She’s skilful, has good awareness, is a goal threat with her aerial ability and from range, can also create and has great strength and athleticism.

    With Missimo’s versatility, though, pinning down a similar footballer is difficult. She feels more like someone who can do what several combined can – possessing some of the dominant traits that Sam Mewis has and elements of the fleet-footed play of a Rose Lavelle, for example.

    That’s without factoring in all the different ways she can lead an attacking line, as Pope highlights.

    It makes sense, then, to hear that the 19-year-old never really modelled her game on anyone in particular, with her older sister her idol instead – though she did look up to a certain Lionel Messi.

    “I just think it's really cool how he just takes on people and doesn't care if he loses the ball.”

  • Trinity Byars Angela Kelly Lexi Missimo Texas

    What comes next?

    A look to the future leads us right back to that big question. Will Missimo go pro?

    Understandably, she won’t declare any decision right now, as she plans to talk to her parents at the end of the season about it all first.

    “I think for her, it's all positive,” Pope believes. “She's such a good player that the cream will always rise to the top, so if she decides to become a professional a little bit early, she's going to do well. If she decides to stay in college, she's going to do well!”

    There’s more to talk about in her future that just that, though.

    In the next year, Missimo has hopes of winning a full call-up to the senior national team – with her eligible for England, the European champions, as well as the USWNT. She’d like more opportunities like those she had with Man City, too. “I'm just going to look at whatever options I get,” she says.

    As for the long-term? “I'm going to have to go with what I said since I was 14 and that's to go pro and to be on the national team. I'm not sure which national team, but I’m definitely looking at that and just following my dream since I was a little kid.”