As Major League Soccer franchise Austin FC starts play in its upcoming season, the team will help to field a squad made up of Special Olympics Texas athletes for a series of matches.
Austin FC on Oct. 23 announced a partnership with Special Olympics Texas to create a roster of local abled and disabled athletes to participate in the MLS Unified program.
“Special Olympics Texas is a wonderful organization that we're very proud to support,” said Austin FC President Andy Loughnane in an Oct. 23 news release from the club. “It’s an organization whose core values align very well with Austin FC’s core values. It's easy to relate to Special Olympics Texas, its mission of fostering a world of acceptance and inclusion for all. That’s something that we believe in very strongly here at Austin FC.”
The new partnership will recruit Special Olympics athletes with disabilities between ages 16-25, according to Austin FC’s news release. Further, athletes without disabilities between 16-21 will participate as “partners.”
This team will play regularly scheduled exhibition matches either immediately before or immediately after Austin FC home games on the pitch of the upcoming stadium at McKalla Place in North Austin.
The Austin FC will send one Special Olympics athlete and a partner from its Unified team to participate in the annual MLS All-Star game, according to the team’s new release.
The MLS Unified program is a leaguewide initiative pairing MLS franchises with Special Olympics partners. According to the professional sports league, participating players and teams have signing days, jersey unveilings, practices and scrimmages with MLS staff and players.
Houston Dynamo and FC Dallas—the MLS’ two other Texas franchises—also participate in MLS Unified.