ATLANTA, GEORGIA—The Atlanta United FC Special Olympics Unified Team is ready to see action this 2021.
The roster of the United Special Olympics Unified Team was officially bared to the public last May 22 with a special launching dubbed as the Signing Day event where players signed their contracts,
joined by former Atlanta United players and founding Unified ambassadors Mark Bloom and Greg Garza.
This year’s line-up is United’s fifth team since the initiative of forming a Special Olympics Unified Team was conceptualize by Major League Soccer in 2017.
MLS started the program earlier in coordination with Special Olympics to form the Special Olympics Unified Sports Soccer Exchange Program.
The initiative seeks to unite individuals with and without intellectual disabilities as members of one team to promote an environment of social inclusion through soccer.
This year’s United ambassadors for the special event are veteran goalkeeper Brad Guzan who is on his fourth year as an ambassador and first-year ambassador Santiago Sosa.
In an interview with the media during the launching of the new team, Guzan expressed joy with the continuation of the event this year.
“I’m thrilled that the Unified Team can return this season after a difficult year which prevented us from coming together on the pitch,” Guzan said.
“It’s a terrific program that uses the sport of soccer to reinforce inclusivity,
it’s something I’m very passionate about and it has become a significant part of our club. I’m excited that we are finally able to return to play in a fun and safe environment and create lasting memories with our Unified Team,” Guzan added.
This year’s launching of the new squad is more special with the entry of sponsor Gallagher.
Christopher E. Mead, Gallagher’s Chief Marketing Officer is very happy with the chance to collaborate with United for the new 2021 Special Olympics Unified Team.
“We believe in empowering and embracing the abilities of all individuals, whether it be athletes, coaches, or coworkers,” Mead said.
“Atlanta United shares these same values, and we are eager for the season to kick off to watch athletes of all abilities find their confidence through the power of sport,” Mead added.
To make the team more competitive this year they are training weekly at the Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta Training Ground where it is frequently joined by First and Second Team players, including this year’s Unified ambassadors.
Sources said the Unified Team is closely tied to the players, who attend practices and matches.
As part of the tradition, the team is set to play against other Unified teams within MLS, either traveling to other cities or hosting them in Atlanta for matches scheduled in conjunction with MLS competitions.