Atlanta United Announces 2022 Special Olympics Unified Team, Presented by Gallagher

Thursday, March 31st, 2022

Atlanta United announced on Sunday its 2022 Special Olympics Unified Team, presented by Gallagher. The Unified Team celebrated the launch of its sixth season at its annual Signing Day event where players signed their contracts, joined by Atlanta United players and Unified ambassadors Brad Guzan and Thiago Almada. The Signing Day event was held at the CODA building in midtown with a rooftop view of Mercedes-Benz Stadium, which was illuminated in Atlanta United colors to celebrate the Unified Team.

Launched in 2017, Atlanta United’s Unified Team is part of MLS WORKS’ collaboration with Special Olympics North America (SONA) to form the Special Olympics Unified Sports Soccer Exchange Program. The program unites individuals with and without intellectual disabilities as members of one team to promote an environment of social inclusion through soccer. Ahead of its sixth season, Atlanta United held tryouts for the Unified Team in anticipation of one of its busiest seasons to date.

“This is set to be one of the most exciting years of Unified yet,” said Atlanta United goalkeeper and Unified Ambassador Brad Guzan. “The enthusiasm and camaraderie in this team is contagious and I’m looking forward to watching their growth this season. While the squad this year might be our most talented ever, it’s always a pleasure to see the athletes and partners come together to have fun and create lifelong memories.”

Atlanta United Unified has two matches scheduled this season along with a series of friendlies. The first match is against Orlando City Unified on July 17 at Mercedes-Benz Stadium. The team will then travel to Foxborough, Massachusetts to take on the New England Revolution Unified Team Oct. 1 at Gillette Stadium. Both matches are scheduled in conjunction with the MLS matches. The team will also scrimmage the Atlanta United U-19 academy team, front office staff from Atlanta United and the Atlanta Area School for the Deaf, which will be played this week on March 30 at the club’s training ground.

The club has hosted Signing Day each year since 2017 at its training ground, but due to the growth of the event, it was held at the CODA building at Tech Square in midtown. Unified players were greeted by the chants of Atlanta United supporters’ groups as they were welcomed to the club by signing their contracts alongside club President Darren Eales and Vice President and Technical Director Carlos Bocanegra.

Last season the club partnered with Gallagher, which is the presenting sponsor of Atlanta United’s Unified Team.

“Gallagher is extremely proud to once again be the presenting sponsor of the Atlanta United Unified Team,” said Christopher E. Mead, Gallagher Chief Marketing Officer. “We believe in championing inclusion and the global movement to embrace the abilities of all individuals. Gallagher’s partnership with Atlanta United Unified to empower athletes lets us put our values into action. We are excited for the launch of the season and to watch athletes of all abilities showcase their skill and confidence.”

The Atlanta United Unified Team trains weekly at the Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta Training Ground. Guzan enters his fifth year as an ambassador, while this marks Santiago Sosa’s second season and Almada’s first. The Unified Team is closely tied to the players, who regularly attend practices and matches.

Unified teams will play 11 vs. 11 matches to align with SONA’s vision to have Unified teams play soccer’s true format. Atlanta’s Unified team has expanded to include players from two counties in Georgia, comprised of players from Cobb County Special Olympics and North Fulton Unified in Fulton County. The team is composed of nine athletes and nine partners ranging from 16 – 25 years old.