AAPI Heritage Month Stories: How Jonathan Lau blazed his own trail in MLS NEXT Pro

While MLS NEXT Pro players give it their all on the field, many other professionals put their energy into the way the game is presented. Communications professionals connect clubs with fans, elevate stories, and celebrate success for players and teams.

Among the dedicated communications professionals in the league is Senior Communications Coordinator Jonathan Lau. As part of Asian-American and Pacific Islander heritage month, Lau reflected on his career and shared what AAPI Heritage Month means to him.

Lau, a Chinese- and Indian-American who spent his formative years in Trinidad and Tobago and Miami, said that while AAPI Heritage Month celebrates the place in society of those who identify as Asian-American or Pacific Islander, it also highlights to him the diversity among people of that background.


“It’s a chance to celebrate not just my own type of Asian heritage, but the identities of so many other people who belong in this group of people, too,” Lau said. “It gives us a chance to celebrate our similarities, but also to celebrate the differences. Things that make each of us unique are worth celebrating, too.”

Lau has a unique background of his own. His parents – a Chinese-Trinidadian father and an Indian-Trinidadian mother – raised him in Trinidad and Tobago until he was 17, when they moved to Miami. He enjoyed the cultural diversity of Miami and stayed in the city for 15 years.

His parents’ story demonstrates the plurality of his identity. Chinese and East Asian immigrants arrived in Trinidad and Tobago starting in the mid-1800s and continuing through 1949 to work as indentured laborers at the time slavery was abolished in the Caribbean. The established Chinese-Trinidadian population in the country today numbers a little less than 4,000.

As he grew up, Lau remembers feeling different from most Trinidadians. Though he grew up on the island as a third-generation Chinese-Trinidadian, people always pointed out to him that he must have been in an “other” category. Whether he fit it or not was on his mind often.


“That was a difficult thing growing up, because being Chinese and Indian, you have to kind of figure out, OK, what do I identify with on this side, what do I identify with on that side?” Lau said. “And then you have the Trinidadian experience of, where do I belong in this society as well, which is difficult.

“When I moved to the US, I became a diaspora of a diaspora as well. So I'm a little used to it now, but it's important because everybody can trace their roots back to someplace, and I feel like we should celebrate these roots. We should celebrate where we come from, these cultures that come from our heritage.”

The road to a career in sports came with a few turns. Lau studied biology in college but later pivoted toward a sports career when he earned an MBA in Sports Management in a program affiliated with Real Madrid. He gained experience working as a press officer at the Miami Grand Prix and the CONCACAF Gold Cup. A connection he made through his education led to a position on Inter Miami CF’s communications team as an intern, and he later made the move to MLS NEXT Pro.

Lau didn’t have a background in sports, but he’s learned how to adapt his skills and pick up new ones on the fly. He approaches his work in soccer with a passion for the game and his authentic personality.

“If you do something with passion,” Lau said, “you do something with authenticity, it goes a long way.”


Representation is one of the most celebrated aspects of diversity. The presence of people of color in leadership positions often inspires others like them to reach the same heights. Conditions can be made more comfortable for people of any identity to reach their goals when people who look like them begin to blaze the trail.

Lau involves himself in promoting AAPI representation in his own organization and in sports careers in general. He hadn’t realized that there were few people who look like him in these positions growing up, but his interest in promoting increased representation has grown now that he understands its value.

“As I got older, I realized that I might have missed out on opportunities because I didn't see someone like me take that route,” Lau said. “That’s another reason why I'm so involved with Asians in MLS now. If there's a chance that somebody else sees that it's possible, then it already has paid off in full.”

To any AAPI individual who aspires to be in a position like his, Lau points out that what he has done is achievable. It may seem that some high achievers do the impossible to get where they are. However, Lau continues to learn and grow in his profession and hopes it opens doors for others.

“I think it's important to be authentic to who you are, what you want to represent, and where you want to be because it might seem like there are no options,” Lau said. “There are no routes because you haven't seen someone go that route before, but that's what trailblazers do, right? Trailblazers go where nobody has gone before and they leave a path for others.”