In 2013 MLS WORKS, Major League Soccer’s community outreach initiative, announced a partnership with Special Olympics North America (SONA) to bring soccer, the world’s most popular sport, to more athletes with intellectual disabilities. Unique to this partnership is an exchange program for Special Olympics Unified Sports soccer teams, which are comprised of players both with and without intellectual disabilities (athletes and partners).
In 2017, Atlanta United launched their Special Olympics Unified team which is comprised of seven athletes and seven partners from Cobb County Special Olympics and train at Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta Training Ground once a week throughout the Unified season. In addition to training sessions, the Unified teams will also compete in a match as part of the exchange program. The Special Olympics Unified Soccer Matches scheduled in conjunction with MLS first-team matches, are played between the two Unified teams clad in their respective MLS club’s uniforms.
The Atlanta United Unified team is closely tied to the first team by players who serve as First Team Unified Ambassadors, attending practices and cheering the Unified Team on at matches. This year, Brad Guzan returns for his second year as a Unified Ambassador and we’ll welcome Julian Gressel and Andrew Carleton into their first seasons with the team. Check out the team’s journey throughout the 2018 season by clicking on the banners below: