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Ruston man makes 2024 USA Blind Soccer National Team

Cody Kirchner
Cody Kirchner

(April 5, 2024) – The U.S. Association of Blind Athletes (USABA) has announced nine athletes selected for the 2024 USA Blind Soccer Men’s National Team. The team was chosen following a February selection camp held in Chula Vista, Calif. The roster features seven athletes with visual impairments along with two sighted goalkeepers.

The sport of blind soccer has been part of the Paralympic Games since 2004, but the U.S. has never fielded a team. That will all change in 2028 when Los Angeles plays host to the Olympic and Paralympic Games and the U.S. will receive an automatic entry into the blind soccer competition as the host country. The first USA Blind Soccer National Team was named in November 2022 and competed in two international friendlies against Canada in March 2023, winning by scores of 1-0 and 3-0.

“As we get closer to USA Blind Soccer’s historic debut at the LA28 Paralympic Games, the level of preparation for our national team is ramping up,” said USABA Director of Sport Performance Amanda Duke Boulet. “These nine athletes selected for the 2024 team represent the drive and determination necessary to compete internationally.”

The seven athletes with visual impairments named to the team are Noah Beckman (Columbus, Ohio), Ricardo Castaneda (Fort Worth, Texas), Charles Catherine (Brooklyn, N.Y.), Oseas De Leon (Miami, Fla.), Cody Kirchner (Ruston, La.), Ethan Kunes (Joppatowne, Md.) and Alvaro Mora Arellano (Phoenix, Ariz.). The two sighted goalkeepers selected are Brandt Herron (Palm Coast, Fla.) and Kyle Knott (Colorado Springs, Colo.). Only De Leon and Kunes were not part of the inaugural USA Blind Soccer Men’s National Team in 2022.

“We are so excited to be naming the 2024 National Team,” said USA Blind Soccer Head Coach Katie Smith. “This team is filled with passionate athletes who are willing to represent their country on and off the pitch and who will help us achieve international ranking as we continue on our journey to the LA28 Paralympic Games.”

A look at the team…

Noah Beckman, 31, has played soccer since the age of six and has also been involved in swimming, wrestling, track, beep baseball, hockey and goalball. He became active with blind soccer in 2018 and has participated in numerous USA Blind Soccer talent identification camps. A member of the inaugural USA Blind Soccer Men’s National Team in 2022, he netted a goal in the team’s 3-0 victory over Canada in an international friendly in March 2023. In high school, Beckman placed individually in several wrestling, track and swimming events and led his goalball team to a second-place finish in the conference. As an adult, he led his goalball teams at the USABA National Championships with a final-four finish in 2016 and a runner-up finish in 2019. Beckman plays beep baseball with the Chicago Comets and practices regularly with a blind hockey program in Columbus.

Ricky Castaneda, 23, became blind at the age of 15 and has participated in a variety of sports including 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. He has also served as captain of the Texas School for the Blind wrestling team where he qualified for regionals in 2018 and took first place in the 160-pound division for three straight years in the conference tournament.

Charles Catherine, 35, is a former elite blind triathlete, originally from France, who was an alternate on the inaugural USA Blind Soccer Men’s National Team in 2022. A 2012 graduate of Sciences Po Bordeaux, France, Catherine holds a master’s degree in international relations and works as the director of corporate and government relations for the National Organization on Disability (NOD). He is also a classical pianist, a husband, and the happy father of two beautiful girls.

New to the USA Blind Soccer Men’s National Team, Oseas De Leon, 45, was born with a passion for movement and quickly found himself drawn to the beautiful game of soccer. After losing his eyesight at the age of 3, he dedicated countless hours on the soccer field honing his skills and displaying a natural talent and determination that set him apart. De Leon also competed in weightlifting, but soccer was his passion and provided a profound sense of joy and fulfillment on the pitch while teaching lessons in teamwork, perseverance and discipline. He is currently an assistive technology instructor at the Miami Lighthouse for the Blind and Visually Impaired.

Cody Kirchner, 34, 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. Kirchner wrestled in middle school and high school before being introduced to goalball when he transferred to a blind school and competed on the New Jersey Thunder Goalball Team. He also played beep baseball for the Philadelphia Fire.

Ethan Kunes, 19, is new to the world of blind soccer having participated for the first time at the USA Blind Soccer camp in February. He has played soccer since the age of 6 and was also involved in swimming, lacrosse and basketball. In high school, Kunes captained his sighted soccer team and led them to a regional championship and state finalist. He is looking forward to participating in the development of expanding blind soccer in the U.S. in both youth and adult programs.

For Alvaro Mora Arellano, 36, soccer has always been his first love. As a young boy, he dreamt of being on a real soccer field dribbling the ball as part of a team. He was introduced to goalball as a teenager in Mexico and liked it because of its similarities to soccer. Mora Arellano attended his first blind soccer clinic in 2019 after seeing an invitation in the USABA monthly newsletter. As a member of the first USA Blind Soccer Men’s National Team named in 2022, he made history by scoring the first goal in the team’s history during an international friendly with Canada.

After graduating high school as Scholar-Athlete of the Year with a 4.82 GPA, Brandt Herron, 23, played soccer at Daytona State College while completing his education in culinary arts. He went on to compete in the USL League Two for two seasons with Virginia Beach United. After his second season, he was picked up by the San Diego Loyals in the USL Championship where he was their training keeper for the last three months of their season.

Kyle Knott, 37, was a multi-sport athlete through high school and college. Soccer was one of five sports Knott played while attending high school in Virginia Beach, Va. 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. At the 2016 UCI Track Cycling World Championships, he piloted the tandem for Team USA and won national titles in the BVI tandem road race and BVI kilometer time trial while racing with Chester Triplett and Davian Robinson. Knott’s passion for soccer continued throughout his life by playing and coaching with club and scholastic teams. Knott was named to the inaugural 2022 Men’s Blind Soccer National Team and was part of the squad to play the team’s first friendly matches against Canada keeping two shutouts.

2024 USA Blind Soccer Men’s National Team Roster

Noah Beckman (Columbus, Ohio)
Ricardo Castaneda (Fort Worth, Texas)
Charles Catherine (Brooklyn, N.Y.)
Oseas De Leon (Miami, Fla.)
Cody Kirchner (Ruston, La.)
Ethan Kunes (Joppatowne, Md.)
Alvaro Mora Arellano (Phoenix, Ariz.)

Sighted GoalkeepersBrandt Herron (Palm Coast, Fla.)
Kyle Knott (Colorado Springs, Colo.)

Coaching StaffKatie Smith (Columbus, Ohio), Head Coach
Ryan Lazaroe (Slidell, La.), Assistant Coach
Fil Wilkinson (Mooresville, N.C.), Assistant Coach

About Blind SoccerDespite their lack of vision, blind soccer players exemplify speed, strength, stamina, agility, and excellent spatial awareness. Blind soccer is a fast-paced and exciting game, played in more than 60 countries, and is the world’s fastest-growing Paralympic sport. With grassroots efforts to introduce the sport to children, teens, and adults across the U.S., USABA is committed to bringing play equity and accessibility to the largest global sport in the world. The U.S. will field its first blind soccer team at the Paralympics when the Games come to Los Angeles in 2028. A member organization of the U.S. Soccer Federation, USABA named the first-ever USA Blind Soccer Men’s National Team in November 2022 and hosted a pair of international friendlies in March 2023, defeating Canada in both matches by scores of 1-0 and 3-0. Watch the exciting live stream of the first friendly and experience the thrills of this historic day.