Leveraging the power of sport, MLS WORKS, ESPN and Special Olympics have teamed up to promote an environment of social inclusion by uniting people with and without intellectual disabilities through the Special Olympics Unified Sports®.
Cornerstone to the collaboration is the Unified Sports Soccer Exchange Program, which is aligned with the League’s Soccer For All platform and provides opportunities for Unified soccer teams to participate in a first-team MLS experience. Unified soccer teams travel to MLS markets to compete in exhibition matches scheduled in conjunction with MLS club matches. MLS clubs provide unique experiences such as signing days, jersey unveils, buddy programs with MLS first-team players, and gameday recognition. Unified teams represent their home MLS club, outfitted in authentic uniforms provided by adidas.
The Unified Exchange program not only provides Special Olympic athletes with top-level training and competitive experiences, but also excellent life experiences that they might not otherwise engage in.
To help Special Olympics reach the goal of 7 million acts of inclusion and support ESPN’s mission to use the power of sport to inspire social change, MLS is asking individuals to take the “Choose to Include” pledge by visiting www.specialolympics.org/MLS or by texting ‘MLS19’ to 51-555.
This summer, MLS and ESPN will host the 6th annual Special Olympics Unified Sports All-Star Soccer Showcase as part of MLS All-Star Week in Orlando, FL. The Unified Sports East and West All-Star soccer teams will play an 11 versus 11 match, featuring Unified players representing MLS clubs. Special Olympics Unified Sports® All-Star Soccer Showcase