Angel City and New Zealand captain Ali Riley discusses partnership with Klarna, the NWSL and more

For the third season running, Angel City has partnered with Klarna, an AI-powered global payments network and shopping assistant to help launch positive and impactful initiatives. We talked to the ACFC captain Ali Riley about the collaboration, her hometown club, the World Cup and more.

Orlando Pride v Angel City FC
Orlando Pride v Angel City FC / Katharine Lotze/GettyImages

Angel City's No. 5, Ali Riley is heading into her third season playing for her hometown professional football club. On the pitch, Riley is a standout leader. Off of it, the L.A. native is doing all she can to make a positive imprint on the society around her. As a brand ambassador of Klarna, "an AI-powered global payments network and shopping assistant," founded in 2005, Riley is working to provide inclusive and beneficial services that help aid and uplift the planet and the greater Los Angeles community.

Ahead of this season, the two launched another initiative along with Southern California-based youth sports organizations, Football For Her, and Section Z. The goal: "bring young girls and nonbinary individuals closer to the game they love."

Throughout the 2024 campaign, ACFC and Klarna will reserve 30 seats at each home match for those two local youth sports organizations. This partnership also includes a mid-season clinic for footballers at Section Z who will get to meet the stars of Los Angeles' only professional women's football club.

Photo Credit: Klarna
Photo Credit: Klarna /

"I am very, very lucky and have Klarna as a sponsor and for me also to have a personal sponsorship with the brand because I think they just show their commitment and their investment in women's sports," club captain and Klarna brand ambassador Ali Riley explained. "And then I feel like it's very holistic ... to be invested in the club, to be invested in individual players, and then now show with this initiative."

She continued, "To try to remove that economic barrier is so important for the girls to get soccer training, mentorship, resources. But then a key part of that is for them to actually be able to see us live. I know it makes such a difference."

Riley wants all young girls and non-binary youth to feel like they belong in sports, but for her, it feels that much more special with this program occurring in the place she grew up in. The New Zealand international was born and raised in Southern California, attending Harvard-Westlake School before relocating to Stanford University for college.

"I just think that it {this initiative} opens doors in your mind to what's possible, even if maybe you don't have the future of being a soccer player. It's still so important," stated Riley.

Ali Riley
New Zealand v USWNT / Brad Smith/ISI Photos/GettyImages

Last summer, Riley experienced her fifth Women's World Cup with New Zealand. None of them were more special than 2023. The Football Ferns had just three draws within this illustrious tournament before the most recent iteration. No wins in 18 World Cup contests. As one of the co-hosts last July and August, that all changed. Captained by the nation's No. 7, the No. 28 ranked nation per FIFA at the time upset European powerhouse Norway in the competition's opener. Riley considers that day, July 20, 2023, one of the best of her life.

"I had many, many former teammates that had played in one, two, three, four World Cups and didn't get that win...We made it such a priority to make sure that we were playing for them, too," stated Riley. "Just remembering the past as you push forward for change, I think for me it's very motivating. It gives me energy."

Though Riley and the Football Ferns fell short of the knockout stages, the L.A. native is focused on the small wins, especially in women's sports. New Zealand is still very clearly a rugby country, but getting that first triumph in front of a record crowd without question brought more eyes to the team and the sport itself. This summer, the 2023 World Cup co-hosts will represent the Oceania Football Confederation at the 2024 Paris Olympics. If Riley is named as a member of the squad, it'll be her fifth Olympic Games. That'd put her in a distinguished group which currently includes the likes of Brazilian legends Formiga, and Marta.

On the club side of things, Riley and ACFC are coming off of their best campaign to date since the club joined as an expansion franchise in 2022. Behind the brilliant leadership of Becki Tweed in the final few months of the season, the L.A. outfit finished fifth in the 2023 NWSL league table, qualifying for the postseason for the first time in club history. Between June and September of last year, Tweed's crew strung off 11 straight victories across both the Challenge Cup and the league. Two of the results came against SoCal rival, San Diego Wave.

"Our training sessions are really, really good so there no surprises on Sunday because we have been working hard, competing really hard," Riley said on why the club had such a turnaround under Tweed mid-season. "She doesn't expect all players who are competing for the same position to be the same. She doesn't ask anyone to play like anyone else."

Turning the page to 2024, Tweed is in her first full campaign at the helm. ACFC opened the season with a loss last Sunday after Bay FC despite looking far the more dangerous of the two going forward. Riley and company have their eyes on securing those first three points of the season, spoiling Orlando Pride's home opener on Friday night.

"We have a really good group this season...I think it's really cool that we have this mixture of young players and experienced older players," the Klarna brand ambassador described. "We're really good friends. We traveled this preseason and got to know each other. We're really here to win and of course, to make a difference in people's lives and to push the game, to grow the game, to make Angelenos proud."

The introduction of even more youth into this side was a massive part of ACFC's offseason. The club signed three players under the age of 19, including Alyssa Thompson's sister, Gisele to multi-year contracts. Riley spoke on what it is like to have so much young talent within the squad this season.

"Seeing them and how they've embraced the opportunity is such an amazing reminder and gives me so much perspective on how much the game has changed for the better, and how many more opportunities young women have."

Riley singled out the young defender, Thompson specifically, stating, "Gisele is a sensational fullback. She is so good. Her confidence, the way she drives the ball, I'm like, 'Wow, I would love to try that', she's so good."


ACFC's new No. 20 is 13 months younger than Alyssa, signing an agreement just a few days before her 18th birthday which is in early December. Gisele made her debut in the NWSL this past weekend against Bay FC, coming in for her sister in the 82'. The defender wasn't the only U-19 player to make her ACFC debut this past weekend. 17-year-old Kennedy Fuller was brilliant, already looking like an established NWSL midfielder playing alongside French veteran Amandine Henry.

Despite the age difference, Riley has developed a special bond with Alyssa, something that has been well-documented on social media. The veteran even went back to school for a day last year with her then-18-year-old club teammate Thompson.

"When she first came in, I think it was really cool because we had so much in common. Obviously not the soccer talent, because she has a lot more of that. But growing up in L.A., going to the same high school, having played for the same club. It just automatically gives you that sense of connection," Riley told FanSided. "We're both really close to our families. Our families met each other really early on and definitely bonded. I just felt really protective of her. I want her to have the most amazing experience, not just at Angel City, but in the league on the national team and in her career, which is going to be so long."

In a game that is getting increasingly more young, the 36-year-old fullback is still competing at such a high level internationally and at her club. That's a credit to her persistence as a professional footballer. Riley has played in four different countries professionally throughout her career, continuing to act, to this day as that female role model she never really had during those all-important formative years.

Riley and Angel City's next contest in Florida can be seen live on Amazon Prime Video this Friday at 8:00 p.m. EST.

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