Special Olympics Unified Team

Preview | MNUFC Unified Team Taking on SKC


When the Loons return to Allianz Field this weekend, we’ll be hosting two matches on the same night. Immediately following the first-team game, the MNUFC Unified Team will be taking to the pitch for their first game of the season. For those unfamiliar with Unified soccer, here’s a quick rundown.


Soccer is just one of a network of Unified Sports sponsored by Special Olympics, and with more than a million participants worldwide, this network is actively empowering individuals with and without intellectual disabilities through the power of athletics.

This global initiative has firmly taken root here in the USA, with more than 8,300 schools already participating and counting. By leveraging the power of sports to foster relationships and extend a spirit of inclusivity to those involved, these Unified programs are making it easier for people of all abilities to make friends, push themselves, and accomplish great things.

On top of schools across the country, Special Olympics have paired with professional leagues and organizations to help further their reach. The National Basketball Association (NBA), the Union of European Football Associations (UEFA), and Major League Soccer are just a few of the associations that have joined the mission, and there will almost certainly be more to come.

Right Here at MNUFC

Along with Special Olympics Minnesota (SOMN) and sponsor Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Minnesota, our club has been participating in this wonderful sport since 2017, and we’ve seen that inclusivity and empowerment at work. Each year, we select a roster of 20 players, with 10 Special Olympics athletes and 10 Unified Partners (individuals without intellectual disabilities participating in Unified Sports). Together, these individuals pursue excellence in performance while living out SOMN’s mission of creating a world of inclusion and acceptance at the same time.

This year’s roster features a wonderful group, including several returning players and a few new faces. The holdovers from 2023 include siblings Connor and Bria King, Jacob Rowan, Makena Smith, Tucker Ritter, Drew Hennen, Alice Gersema, Lucy Schneider, Tyler Tinucci and Andres Pope. They continue to be led by Head Coach Ray Kennedy, who’s been with the program for several years now.

The remaining half of the roster is new this year, including Assistant Coach Jen Heebink. Newcomers Wayatt Hartfiel, Caden Roseth, Eliseo Sanchez Piedra, Ellie Lommel, Abby Plahn, Cayleigh Sorenson, Lydia Martin, Julia Salzsiedler, Magdalena Capitani, and Brynn Stucchi will be making their MNUFC debuts this weekend against SKC.

Saturday’s Unified match will take place directly after the first-team game wraps up, and everyone in attendance is invited—nay, encouraged—to stick around and cheer the Loons on. We ask that any fans staying for the extra match make their way to Sections 30-34 on the west side of the stadium, where we’ll be gathering our voices and making some noise throughout the match.

Once you’ve made it to the proper area, the action will last for about 45 minutes to an hour. We’ll have all of your standard pre-match ceremonies, from warmups to player walkouts to the national anthem. After the niceties, the match itself will last a total of 30 minutes, broken up into two 15-minute halves. We’ll be cheering the whole time, so be ready to be loud to let the squad know they’ve got your support.

This match marks the first time Allianz Field has hosted another Unified Team since 2019, and though we’ve had intrasquad matches in the years since, this event is going to be special. You won’t want to miss either of the awesome matches coming our way this weekend. See you there!