Utilizing the unifying nature of sport, Columbus Crew SC and Major League Soccer’s Social Responsibility platform, MLS WORKS, have teamed up with Acura, ESPN, and Special Olympics to unite people with and without intellectual disabilities by fostering and promoting an environment of social inclusion through the Special Olympics Unified Sports® program.
At the heart of the program is the Unified Sports Soccer Exchange Program, which runs in tandem with MLS’ Soccer For All platform and provides opportunities for Unified soccer teams to participate in a First-Team MLS experience.
This season, Special Olympics Ohio – Crew SC’s Unified soccer team partner – will compete in two exhibition matches scheduled in conjunction with MLS club matches.
Special Olympics Ohio’s first exhibition is set to take place on Sunday, June 23 at MAPFRE Stadium against Special Olympics Kansas/Missouri following the First Team’s home match against Sporting Kansas City.
Following the June 23 match, Special Olympics Ohio will travel to San Jose, Calif. to face Special Olympics Northern California – the San Jose Earthquakes’ affiliate – for an exhibition match at Avaya Stadium, home of the Earthquakes, on Saturday, Aug. 3 prior to the First Team’s match against San Jose.
As part of the Unified Exchange program, Crew SC is dedicated to providing Unified athletes with unique experiences, such as a jersey unveiling, a professional photo shoot, flights and hotel accommodation alongside the First Team, recreational activities, and matchday recognition. Additionally, Special Olympics Ohio will be outfitted in authentic uniforms provided by adidas.
The goal of the Unified Exchange program is not only to provide Special Olympic athletes with top-level training and competitive experiences, but also excellent life experiences that they might not otherwise engage in.
Notably, 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. The Unified Sports East and West All-Star soccer teams will play an 11 versus 11 match, featuring Unified players representing MLS clubs. Announcement of the All-Star roster is scheduled for July 21.