London seems to suit Mia Fischel. That much is evident when he talks about adapting to a move to Chelsea after two seasons at the Tigers. She immediately recognizes the Nando’s name – “When I got here, I was eating non-stop,” she said – and is looking at restaurants around Borough Market in central London, especially restaurants that are hard to find in Mexico or the US. She is not afraid to try new things, be it food or her work.
Fishel took an unusual path for a young American player, opting to join the Tigres in Mexico’s Liga MX Feminine over the Orlando Pride after the NWSL side drafted her ahead of the 2022 NWSL. She then this summer to take to the WSL power Chelsea in Mexico with 38 goals in 48 appearances, where she already scored at the beginning; Textbook header with Tottenham in the box.
Fishel broke through with the United States national team, scoring in her second game in October in her hometown of San Diego. Everything seems to be looking up for Fish at the moment, especially with her future international career at Chelsea under coach Emma Hayes, who has officially agreed to take over the US women’s national team at the end of the season. Expires in 2024.
While Fischel wouldn’t be specific about the deal, she did give Hayes some encouraging advice during her extensive chat with The Athletic.
“If she’s the national team coach, I mean, it’s amazing,” Fischel said. “She really knows how to manage players. And I’m lucky to have her. And if she is a national coach, I mean she will do amazing things. She is already doing amazing things here in Chelsea. She created a legacy here and if anything, I think it’s more of a responsibility for me because she knows how I am, the player that I am.
“She was the main reason I came to Chelsea to develop a winning mentality. We had discussions even before I arrived here about how she sees me, how I fit into the team, and whether I have a lot in common off the field.
One of those similarities, according to Fishel, is that she and Hayes are both single when they want something.
“We’ll do anything to get there,” Fishel said. “Before I arrived at Chelsea we had a long conversation about who we are as people. And I think my journey relates to her in terms of doing what you think is best for yourself and going after that dream.
That drive for success, a willingness to put herself out there, is helping Fishel join a new brand of young athletes. Fishel is only 22 years old, but she’s already laying the groundwork for a long and prosperous career off the field. Women’s soccer has historically not been viable, especially for any player who isn’t a star of Sam Kerr’s—or Alex Morgan’s—level. But Fishel didn’t let that stop her.
Accepting the NCAA’s NIL (Name, Image and Likeness) agreements at UCLA was the beginning of Fishel’s final college career.
“Growing up, I didn’t have a role model. I couldn’t understand a single thing,” she said. But NIL made her think about how to reach more people, how to build relationships. At UCLA, she partnered with skincare brand Sport Art and created her own merchandise under the Big Fishel Energy brand. That carried over into her pro career, with Fischel ready to throw on t-shirts and screenshots with her personal logo emblazoned with stylized MF initials.
After years of growth in the women’s game and the advent of social media, it’s the kind of job that athletes can do to connect directly and instantly with fans. She eventually formed an LLC and assembled a team, which now includes her agent and her father, who acts as her manager.
“It was a lot of trial and error because I didn’t have a mock-up of how it was going to go,” Fishel said. “I told my team, this is what I want to do. And they’ve been helping me through that process.”
She said she had to learn to be patient sometimes. When she needs something, she wants it done right away, but in times like production times or contracts, the timeline can be much longer. For example, Fishel has a children’s book in the works since January about confidence, empowerment and taking control of your own destiny.
“It’s very frustrating to have all this planning. You know, I have all these ideas, but the only thing that’s important is patience to continue to follow through and make sure it pays off, and I’m still learning that,” she says.
Giving advice from her younger self may take on even more significance as young players sign professional contracts in the United States. Several NWSL teams have signed youngsters, the latest being 15-year-old Alex Pfeiffer from Kansas City. Even an aspiring young player doesn’t come into the world immediately knowing things like how to find an agent or negotiate a contract, and Fishel says trying to become that brand-savvy business person isn’t for everyone.
“There are a lot of pros and cons to making certain decisions,” she said. She finds many demands on her time and it can be difficult to balance at 22, let alone 15. “Ultimately, it has to come from you. It should come from your heart, not fast-track what other people are doing or your dreams and goals.
Fischel hopes women’s soccer will get bigger and bigger in the Niel era, with many players learning early on how to leverage their on-field success into off-field deals. She adds a warning about how building a business can take a lot of your focus off the ball if you’re not careful, adding that common sense balances success and focus.
“I’m just saying to be clear about who you are,” Fishel said. “You know, I’m still figuring out who I am. “But if you have a good sense of yourself and a direction to go, I think it makes things a lot easier because it’s clear what I want other people to see from me.”
(Photo: Jenny Chuang/ISI Photos/Getty Images)