Asian American & Pacific Islander Heritage Month Spotlight: Kellyn Acosta

Kellyn Acosta posing for a picture with a display in the background
Kellyn Acosta posing for a picture with a display in the background

In the vast landscape of American soccer, Kellyn Acosta's journey is a testament to the power of diversity and heritage. Born in Plano, Texas, Acosta's unique blend of Japanese ancestry from his father's side and African American heritage from his mother's side reflects the rich cultural tapestry that is the United States. This background has not only shaped his identity but also influenced his approach to the game, making him a standout figure in the sport as a professional American soccer player and someone who has represented the United States more than 50 times in international competition.

Acosta's journey to success was not without its challenges. In 2010, he faced a setback when he was cut from his school's junior varsity soccer team. This would have been a turning point for many, but Acosta's resilience and determination shone through. Just a month later, he seized the opportunity to join U.S. Soccer's U-17 Residency Program, a move that would set him on the path to his future achievements.

His journey with the U.S. National Team began at a young age, representing his country at the FIFA U-17 World Cup in 2011 and later at the FIFA U-20 World Cups in 2013 and 2015. However, it was his historic selection to the U.S. roster for the 2022 FIFA World Cup that truly underscored his significance in the sport. Acosta proudly became the first Japanese-American man to don the U.S. jersey at a World Cup. With 58 caps for the USMNT, including 19 in World Cup Qualifying matches, he consistently excelled under pressure, notching two goals and five assists in his USMNT career.

Off the pitch, Acosta's impact is felt far and wide. As a father to his 5-year-old son, Emerson, he is a role model in his own right. But his influence extends beyond his family. Acosta is a vocal advocate for inclusivity and positive change, using his platform as a member of Black Players for Change and a supporter of the Special Olympics and Global Down Syndrome Foundation. His efforts have not gone unnoticed, earning him accolades such as Major League Soccer’s 2021 Humanitarian of the Year, and Humanitarian of the Year for the Colorado Rapids in 2020 and 2021.

“That’s the beauty of soccer – it doesn’t matter what you look like, your interests, religion, sexual orientation – it’s the world’s game. That’s why I love soccer so much because whenever I turn on the TV, I saw people that look like me,” Acosta said. “One of the pillars of our (USMNT) team is diversity and our whole team is a testament to that. I think that’s our strong suit. Guys from all over bring their characteristics and their attributes to the team. I feel like that’s huge, and that’s special.”

Currently a midfielder for Chicago Fire FC, Acosta continues to be a beacon of excellence in soccer and community impact. Whether orchestrating plays on the field or championing causes off it, he embodies the spirit of a true trailblazer, breaking barriers and paving the way for future generations.

As Asian American and Pacific Islander Month is celebrated, Acosta's story reminds us of the diverse tapestry that enriches American soccer and the power of individuals to effect meaningful change both on and off the field.

“My dad was born in Japan – he’s half Japanese, my grandma is full and then also I have a Hispanic last name which is my step-grandpa. So, I have this very diverse background, and it’s influenced me in all aspects of my life,” Acosta said. “I think my story is more of a testament to people dealing with identity issues, and I hope that me bringing that to light will help people embrace who they are because that’s their makeup,” said Acosta. “So hopefully, my story will encourage others to come to the forefront.”

Read more about Kellyn Acosta and the U.S. Men’s National Team at