This is a pretty cool event that should be adopted across the sport: USL League One’s Union Omaha and Forward Madison FC are launching the Unified Soccer Series, featuring Special Olympics Unified teams from both Nebraska and Wisconsin.
Billed as the first of its kind within the United Soccer League (USL), two Unified Soccer Series matches will be played surrounding 2022 USL League One match-ups between Union Omaha and Forward Madison and will provide an opportunity for the Unified players (with and without intellectual disabilities) to play on the same pitch as their partner teams.
The Special Olympics Unified Sports program focuses on promoting social inclusion through shared sports training and competition experiences and joins people with and without intellectual disabilities on the same team. Teams will be established through each state’s Special Olympics program in the coming months.
“The Unified Soccer Series is an initiative that means a lot to me,” said Union Omaha General Manager Peter Marlette. “To be able to expand our rivalry with Forward Madison with the Unified Soccer Series is special. I can’t think of a better club or fan base with which to bring this project to the USL. The collaboration between Union Omaha, Forward Madison, and the state Special Olympics teams has been great so far and I’m excited to see how our fans embrace this.”
“We’re thrilled to partner with Union Omaha and Special Olympics on this new series,” said Forward Madison Chief Operating Officer Conor Caloia. “It’s important to give these athletes a platform to enjoy and advance the sport they love. It also gives us a chance to beat Omaha twice in one night.”
“We are incredibly excited to kick off the first Unified Soccer Series,” said Special Olympics Nebraska Vice President of Program Nate Parks. “This is an amazing opportunity to highlight the abilities and sportsmanship of our athletes and unified partners on a grander stage. This partnership is a huge win for us, and we hope to make the USL League One Champs, Union Omaha, proud.”
“What an awesome opportunity for our respective Unified programs to continue spreading a culture of inclusion,” said Don Wigington, interim president & CEO of Special Olympics Wisconsin. “We are excited to be a featured component of this rivalry series and look ‘Forward’ to developing even stronger relationships with our professional sports organizations.”