He’s kind of a big deal. And if you aren’t familiar with him, you soon will be. Meet Kellyn Acosta, the powerhouse FC Dallas midfielder lighting up Toyota Stadium in Frisco. Just 21 years old, Kellyn’s got a pretty solid start to his soccer career: three Youth World Cup appearances, playing time in an Olympic qualifier and a debut on the U.S. Men’s National Team. Oh, and he’s a starter on the number-one ranked MLS team in the country.
Kellyn Acosta is more than just a name around here. He’s a homegrown athlete who started out playing the same fields that Plano kids play today—Carpenter, High Point, Russell Creek—and later grew up within the FC Dallas Academy, an impressive youth program that recruits and develops talented local players. Kellyn is one of a record-breaking 15 local, homegrown players who have signed with FC Dallas, some who will experience their first MLS playoffs this fall. Asked how he feels he’s contributed to the success of his team, Kellyn humbly admits he thinks he’s “been doing a pretty good job.”
His fans definitely agree—his family among them. One of the perks Kellyn enjoys as a local player is being able to play in front of his family and friends. “Hopefully, I can reward them for all that they’ve given me, by giving them a championship,” he says. He credits his family for getting him started in soccer in Allen, when he was just 4 years old, where he competed for both Allen and Plano leagues. Later, as a student at Jasper High School, Kellyn would earn a spot on the Plano Senior High School varsity team, before pursuing academy-level training.
Now a soccer pro, he counts his memories of playing in childhood tournaments as among his favorite—“even though I kind of hated it,” he laughs. “But looking back at it, just waking up at the crack of dawn and getting ready for my games, those experiences were really cool.” Through those four-game-a-day weekends, Kellyn says he built long-lasting friendships and really grew his love for the game.
Busy soccer Saturdays are something many Plano parents can relate to. To say soccer is big in Plano is a bit of an understatement. It’s HUGE. The city boasts 74 public fields alone, more than half of them outfitted with lights for night games. During this year’s fall season, a staggering 1,507 recreational-level teams will take the field, complete with more than 23,000 players. Plano is just one of more than 100 recreational youth soccer programs spread across North Texas, which also fields another 10,000 club-level players from Allen to Amarillo.
Most young soccer players get their first taste of the game through friendly recreational leagues, like Plano’s own PSA and PYSA leagues. These programs let kids of any age learn the fundamentals while having fun in a less-competitive atmosphere. More committed players can opt into select, club or competitive soccer starting around age 11 or 12. Some players start in pre-select training programs as early as 7 years old.
Young players who get “selected” into these programs compete for more than 600 private clubs and organizations across North Texas, benefitting from intensive training and competition. Exceptionally talented kids also may pursue opportunities through soccer academies like FC Dallas Academy, which immerse kids into training with elite-level athletes. Kids at FC Dallas Academy benefit from an especially cool feature—they get to play alongside some of their favorite athletes, and some will even eventually make the team.
These days, Kellyn Acosta says he’s sharing the practice field with local academy players as young as 13 years old, some who will follow in his footsteps. Through his training with the FC Dallas Academy, Kellyn’s success includes three trips to the Youth World Cup—including his 2013 U20 appearance, where he was the youngest player to make the team at age 17. This year saw Kellyn called-up by Coach Jürgen Klinsmann to join the U.S. Men’s National Team, where his talent continues to make a big impression. He is slated to play his first World Cup in 2018.
Ever the homegrown player at heart, Kellyn’s excited to see North Texas soccer thrive and hopes more “homegrowns” keep playing the game. Practice doesn’t always just make perfect; sometimes there’s even more. “I had dreamed of becoming a professional,” he says, “but I never thought I would be here, be at this point playing for them. It’s a dream come true.”
You can watch Kellyn Acosta and FC Dallas play in the Western Conference Semifinals game on Nov. 6 at 8pm at Toyota Stadium. Tickets available at FCDallas.com.FC Dallas > Kellyn Acosta on Twitter > Kellyn Acosta on Facebook >