Leveraging the power of sport, MLS WORKS, ESPN and Special Olympics have teamed up to promote an environment of social inclusion, which is aligned with the League's Soccer For All platform. Cornerstone to the collaboration is the Special Olympics Unified Sports® Soccer Exchange Program, uniting individuals with intellectual disabilities (Special Olympics athletes) and individuals without intellectual disabilities (Unified partners) as members of one team.
MLS Unified soccer teams travel for exhibition matches, scheduled in conjunction with MLS first-team matches, to reinforce inclusivity and showcase the talents and abilities to MLS fans. MLS clubs provide authentic MLS first-team experiences such as signing days, jersey unveils, practices and scrimmages with MLS front office staff and first-team players, and game day recognition. Unified teams are outfitted in authentic uniforms provided by adidas.
A highlight of each season is the Special Olympics Unified Sports All-Star Game, presented by MLS WORKS and ESPN. One Special Olympics athlete and one Unified partner are selected to represent their MLS club during MLS All-Star Week. The experience culminates in a competitive East versus West, 11 versus 11, Special Olympics Unified Sports Soccer Game.
Due to local/state health and government restrictions, and guidelines recommended by Special Olympics as a result of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, all 2020 Unified Exchange matches to date have been cancelled.