When Khiry Shelton was 9 or 10 years old, his grade school teacher conducted a time capsule activity. Every student wrote a letter about what they wanted to be when they grew up, sealed the paper into an envelope and returned it to their teacher.
Years later, when Shelton was in high school, he received the envelope in the mail. The letter, scribbled in his own handwriting, said that Shelton wanted to be a professional soccer player.
Consider it a dream come true.
Shelton, a 27-year-old Sporting Kansas City forward who is tied for the team lead with three goals this season, recently joined sportscaster Glenn Davis on the Soccer Matters podcast to reflect on his eventful upbringing in a military family, his early professional days at New York City FC, his experience competing in the German Bundesliga and his evolution as a player.
The No. 2 overall pick in the 2015 MLS SuperDraft, Shelton joined New York City FC as a rookie and became acquainted with teammates David Villa, Frank Lampard and Andrea Pirlo—all of whom Shelton grew up idolizing.
After three years in New York, Shelton arrived in Kansas City and helped Sporting to a first-place finish in the Western Conference in 2018. He spent 2019 with German club SC Paderborn 07 before sealing a return to Sporting ahead of the 2020 campaign. During his stint in Europe, Shelton said he became a more well-rounded player.
“There’s a lot more to my game than just speed and strength,” Shelton told Davis. “My passing ability, my vision of the game, my knowledge of when to (attack) and when to keep the ball. There are a lot of things that play into my game that people don’t take into consideration, but that’s not for me to (worry) about.”
Shelton also shared details about the special relationship he shares with his father, a military veteran who served in the U.S. Army for 22 years.
“Over the last five or six years, he’s become my best friend because our relationship has changed over time as I’ve gotten older,” Shelton said of his dad. “He’s not only a father figure but a best friend. We talk every day, and he’s still able to push me in different parts of my life but also support me.”
After reaching the quarterfinals of the MLS is Back Tournament, Shelton and Sporting will now await the resumption of the MLS regular season. The league plans to announce a revamped schedule in the very near term.
Sporting currently sits atop the Western Conference with 12 points and a 4-1-0 regular season record. Shelton is notably one of two MLS players—alongside teammate and fellow forward Khiry Shelton—with three goals, five chances created and 30 duels won this year.