Paralympics blind blindness
The members of the first U.S. Blind Soccer Men’s National Team, formed after tryouts in Chula Vista. Photo credit: Screen shot,

Ten athletes have made the first USA Blind Soccer Men’s National Team, which is set to begin international competition next year.

Ultimately, the team will compete in the 2028 Paralympic Games in Los Angeles – the first time the U.S. will have an entry in the sport.

The team was selected by U.S. Association of Blind Athletes after a four-day selection camp in Chula Vista that concluded Sunday. The roster features eight athletes with visual impairments along with two sighted goalkeepers.

Blind soccer has been part of the Paralympic Games since 2004, but the U.S. has never fielded a team. The U.S. will receive an automatic entry into the 2028 competition as the host country.

Among the eight other athletes with visual impairments is David Brown, 30, of Chula Vista, a three-time Paralympian.

He not only competed – in 2016 he won a gold medal in track and field in the 100 meters at the Rio Games. He is also a three-time world champion and world record holder in both the 200 meters and 100 meters where he became the first totally blind athlete to run under 11 seconds. In high school, Brown participated in track, wrestling and goalball.

The seven others named to the team are Noah Beckman (Columbus, Ohio), Cody Kirchner (Columbia, S.C.), Ahmed Shareef (Staten Island, N.Y.), Ricardo Castaneda (Fort Worth, Texas), Kevin Brown (Falls Church, Va.), Antoine Craig (Richmond, Va.), and Alvaro Mora Arellano (Phoenix, Ariz.).

The two sighted goalkeepers selected are Brandt Herron (Palm Coast, Fla.) and Kyle Knott (Brevard, N.C.).

“We are so excited to name the first ever USA Blind Soccer Men’s National Team,” said Head Coach Katie Smith. “It was incredible to see the growth of the athletes at this first national selection camp. It is truly incredible being a part of this revolutionary team and to have another Paralympic sport for blind athletes all over the country to aspire toward.”

Beckman, 30, has played soccer since the age of 6 and has also been involved in swimming, wrestling, track, beep baseball, hockey and goalball. He became active with blind soccer in 2018.

Kirchner, 33, fell in love with blind soccer the moment he stepped on the pitch and found he could run without being stopped or held back. Since that day he has dreamed of earning a spot on the U.S. National Team and one day competing for a Paralympic medal.

Shareef, 25, dreamt of playing soccer from a young age, but at age 7 he had his eyesight and right arm taken from him by a bomb in his hometown of Baghdad. Brought to the U.S. by the Global Medical Relief Fund charity, Shareef attended his first blind soccer camp in 2019.

Castaneda, 22, became blind at the age of 15 and has participated in judo, wrestling, goalball, triathlon track & field, beep baseball and swimming. He earned 2017 Most Valuable Player honors in track at the Northwest Regional competition and was defensive MVP in beep baseball at a tournament in Chicago in 2021.

Kevin Brown, 50, has been legally blind since the age of 7. He competed in soccer and other mainstream sports through high school and college and continued to participate in USA Track & Field events following graduation. He held the USATF record in the pentathlon and is currently a member of the U.S. National Blind Hockey Team.

Craig, 40, competed in track and field at the 2019 Parapan American Games in Lima, Peru. He was a silver medalist in the 100 meters at the 2021 Paralympic Trials and a silver medalist in the 200 meters at the 2017 U.S. Paralympic Nationals.

For Mora Arellano, 35, soccer has always been his first love. As a young boy, he dreamt of being on a real soccer field dribbling the ball. Mora Arellano attended his first blind soccer clinic in 2019 after seeing an invitation in the blind athletes association’s newsletter.

After graduating high school as the scholar-athlete of the year, Herron, 21, played soccer for Daytona State College where the team had two back-to-back national championship appearances.

Knott, 36, was a multi-sport athlete through high school and college. During his collegiate career at Longwood University, James Madison University and Mars Hill University, he was a cross-country runner, diver, triathlete and cyclist. Knott was the first-ever cycling national champion at Mars Hill in 2011. .

Alternates for the team are John Marquez (Fort Worth, Texas) and Charles Catherine (Brooklyn, N.Y.).