Special Olympics Kansas is proud to announce that an athlete and Unified partner from Kansas will be part of the Special Olympics USA male and female Unified soccer teams at the Special Olympics Unified Cup 2022, being held July 31 – August 6 in Detroit, Michigan.
Special Olympics teams from 24 countries have been selected to participate in the Unified Cup 2022 presented by Toyota and supported by Hometown Sponsor, Ally Financial.
Special Olympics USA will be represented by two composite Unified teams in Detroit, one all-male 11-a-side team and one all-female 7-a-side team. Athletes and Unified partners were selected to be part of Special Olympics USA after being nominated by their Special Olympics Program and local MLS Club and completing interviews and virtual tryouts.
Participants will represent the Special Olympics Unified Sports® Soccer Exchange Program, a collaboration since 2014 between Major League Soccer, ESPN and Special Olympics to promote an environment of social inclusion. The cornerstone of the collaboration, the Unified Exchange Program, consists of MLS Unified teams traveling for exhibition matches scheduled in conjunction with MLS first-team matches, reinforcing inclusivity and showcasing the talents and abilities of SO athletes and partners. Also, part of the program, taking place this summer as part of MLS All-Star Week in Minnesota is the Special Olympics Unified All-Star Unified Game.
Joshua Toplikar has been a Special Olympics Athlete for 10 years, he has participated in many sports over the years with both the Olathe Trailblazers and Unified Sports in high school. He was a part of the 2021 MLS Exchange Sporting KC Unified Soccer Team and we are thrilled to have him represent Kansas on the Special Olympics USA men’s team.
Avery Kingery just graduated from Lawrence High School and will be attending William Jewell College next year where she will be both a student and athlete competing as a power lifter. Avery was a part of Unified Sports in High School and will be pursuing a degree in secondary education with hopes of becoming an adaptive physical education teacher! Avery will be competing on the women’s Special Olympics USA team!
Note: The full roster for both Special Olympics USA teams can be found here.
Detroit will host over 300 athletes with and without intellectual disabilities during a historic week that will celebrate the joy of sport and the power of inclusion through camaraderie, competition, and breaking down social barriers.
Special Olympics Unified Sports® brings together athletes with and without intellectual disabilities to play on the same team, demonstrating how playing and competing together breaks down barriers and ultimately creates communities of acceptance and inclusion.
Competition and events throughout the week will attract more than 10,000 spectators, 1,000 volunteers and 500 family members and dignitaries to the tournament.
“Special Olympics Kansas has had an MLS Exchange Sporting Kansas City Unified Soccer Team for the past 8 years. We are beyond thankful for the partnership and support from Sporting Kansas City and the Victory Project! This year it is a great honor to have two of our very own participating in the Special Olympics Unified Cup! We hope that this brings more interest across our state to Unified Soccer and how individuals with and without disabilities can compete together on the same playing field” Taylor Obersteadt, Unified Champion Schools Manager.
The finals will be streamed live on ESPN3 from Keyworth Stadium – home of the Detroit City Football Club – to hundreds of millions of viewers across the globe by ESPN, the Global Broadcast Partner of Special Olympics and the Global Presenting Sponsor of Special Olympics Unified Sports®. A recap of the week will be broadcast by ESPN2 on Saturday, August 13 at 3p ET.
The Special Olympics Unified Cup Detroit 2022 is made possible thanks to support from sponsors Toyota, ESPN, Ally Financial, Gallagher, Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan and Blue Care Network, The Coca-Cola Company, and The Real Estate One Charitable Foundation. For more information, visit unifiedcup.org and stay up to date on our social media channels: Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter.
About Special Olympics Kansas
Special Olympics Kansas is dedicated to empowering individuals with intellectual disabilities to become physically fit, productive and respected members of society through sports competitions, health and nutrition programs and leadership development. Offering year-round initiatives to children and adults with intellectual disabilities, Special Olympics Kansas is a platform for acceptance and inclusion as well as one of the largest advocates for healthy lifestyles in the state – regardless of race, religion, ethnicity or cultural differences.
It is our belief that participation in sports enables challenges and opportunities to be introduced to the participants teaching them teamwork, decision making, leadership, goal-setting, perseverance, commitment and sportsmanship, while developing self-confidence, self-esteem, character and integrity.
About the Special Olympics Unified Sports® Soccer Exchange Program
Leveraging the power of sport, MLS WORKS, ESPN and Special Olympics have teamed up to promote an environment of social inclusion, which is aligned with the League’s Soccer For All platform. Cornerstone to the collaboration is the Special Olympics Unified Sports® Soccer Exchange Program, uniting individuals with intellectual disabilities (Special Olympics athletes) and individuals without intellectual disabilities (Unified partners) as members of one team.
MLS Unified soccer teams travel for exhibition matches, scheduled in conjunction with MLS first-team matches, to reinforce inclusivity and showcase the talents and abilities to MLS fans. MLS clubs provide authentic MLS first-team experiences such as signing days, jersey unveils, practices and scrimmages with MLS front office staff and first-team players, and game-day recognition. Unified teams are outfitted in authentic uniforms provided by Adidas.