Major League Soccer's community outreach initiative MLS WORKS, in collaboration with ESPN and Special Olympics, announced Thursday the kickoff of the 2018 Special Olympics Unified Sports Soccer Exchange Program.
The partnership is part of an effort to promote an environment of social inclusion by uniting people with and without intellectual disabilities through Special Olympics Unified Sports®. In the Unified Sports Soccer Exchange Program, Unified teams compromised of players with and without intellectual disabilities will travel from their home city to other MLS markets to compete in exhibition matches with their Special Olympics counterparts.
Unified matches are scheduled in conjunction with MLS club matches, providing MLS fans an opportunity to witness first-hand the talents and abilities of Special Olympics athletes and Unified partners. The first match of the season will take place this Saturday, May 5 when Special Olympics Georgia competes against Special Olympics Illinois at Toyota Park following the match between the Chicago Fire and Atlanta United.
The full schedule of Unified matches includes 23 games to be played between May 5 and October 21. Also, MLS and ESPN will host the 5th annual Special Olympics Unified Sports All-Star Soccer Showcase as part of the 2018 MLS All-Star Game presented by Target in Atlanta. The Unified Sports All-Star soccer teams will play an 11-v-11 match, featuring Unified players representing all 23 MLS clubs.