Please ensure Javascript is enabled for purposes of website accessibility
Press Releases

Football Legends Unite for Inaugural Unified Cup in Chicago

ESPN2 to air finals live, first-ever live primetime broadcast of a Special Olympics Unified Sports competition.

Special Olympics welcomes soccer legends, Didier Drogba, Hidetoshi Nakata, and Zico to take part in the first-ever Special Olympics Unified Cup presented by TOYOTA on 17-20 July at Toyota Park in Bridgeview, Illinois, USA. The famed footballers will participate alongside 24 Special Olympics Unified football teams during the four-day competition, which consist of players with and without intellectual disabilities (see tournament groupings in Notes to the Editor).

“It is an honor to take part in the Special Olympics Unified Cup presented by Toyota,” said Hidetoshi Nakata, Special Olympics Global Ambassador. “I know from experience how sports can empower athletes to be leaders on and off the field, and I am excited for the world to witness the talent and leadership of Special Olympics athletes and their Unified teammates.”

Though Special Olympics has made great strides since its founding in 1968, a study conducted by Kantar found that only 32 percent of respondents fully believe that people with intellectual disabilities are capable of playing sports on a team with people without intellectual disabilities. At the Unified Cup, international football (soccer) legends will take the field with Special Olympics Unified soccer teams to showcase the transformative power of sport on the global stage.

“At Toyota, we are committed to supporting the creation of a more inclusive and sustainable society where everyone feels empowered to ‘start their impossible’ and realize their best selves” said Jack Hollis, group vice president and general manager, Toyota division. “We believe that sports, in particular, has the ability to remove societal barriers and allow individuals to experience the freedom that comes with movement, which we are passionate about as a mobility company. Special Olympics is a perfect partner in realizing these objectives, and we are proud to have a role in supporting the Unified Cup. We look forward to sharing its powerful message with as many people as possible.”

Each Unified football (soccer) team will be joined by high-level club sponsors, uniting elite athletes and football federations to fight discrimination on the playing field. The final matches will be broadcast live on ESPN2, marking the first-ever live primetime broadcast of a Special Olympics Unified Sports competition (see broadcast details in Notes to the Editor).

“The Special Olympics Unified Cup presented by Toyota represents the unrelenting spirit of the Special Olympics movement,” said Mary Davis, Special Olympics CEO. “Our athletes invite the world to spark a revolution for inclusion – a peaceful protest against discrimination, breaking down barriers to unite people of all abilities and backgrounds through sport.”

Notes to the Editor

Event Name: Special Olympics Unified Cup presented by TOYOTA
Date: 17-20 July 2018
Location: Finals and Semi-Finals – Toyota Park, Preliminary Matches – CIBC Fire Pitch
LIVE Broadcast: ESPN2 – July 20th at 6pm ET/5pm CT

Click for event details and FREE tickets to the Final Matches. Email for Bulk Tickets (groups of +20)

Female Delegations
SO USA Illinois (Female) – Chicago Fire
SO Slovakia – Slovak Football Association
SO Kenya – Football Kenya Federation
SO Brazil – Americano Futebol Clube de Campos de Goytacazes

SO Bharat (India) – Delhi Dynamos
SO Mexico – Club America
SO Egypt – TBC
SO Korea – TBC

Male Delegations
SO USA Illinois (Male) – Chicago Fire
SO France – Football Club Metz
SO Uruguay – Uruguayan Football Association
SO Bangladesh – Bangladesh Football Federation

SO USA Kansas/Missouri – Sporting Kansas City
SO Germany –Borussia Dortmund
SO Ecuador – Independiente de Valle
SO China – TBC

SO Nippon (Japan) – Nagoya Grampus
SO Italy – FIGC, Italian Football Federation
SO Jamaica – Jamaica Football Federation
SO Nigeria – Nigeria Football Federation

SO USA Texas – FC Dallas and Houston Dynamo
SO Russia – Football Union of Russia
SO Canada – TBC
SO United Arab Emirates – TBC

About Special Olympics

Special Olympics is a global inclusion movement using sport, health, education and leadership programs every day around the world to end discrimination against and empower people with intellectual disabilities. Founded in 1968, and celebrating its 50th Anniversary this year, the Special Olympics movement has grown to more than 5 million athletes and Unified partners in more than 170 countries. With the support of more than 1 million coaches and volunteers, Special Olympics delivers 32 Olympic-type sports and over 108,000 games and competitions throughout the year. Special Olympics is supported by individuals, foundations and partners, including the Christmas Records Trust, the Law Enforcement Torch Run® for Special Olympics, The Coca-Cola Company, United Airlines, The Walt Disney Company and ESPN, Microsoft, Lions Clubs International, Bank of America, Essilor Vision Foundation, the Golisano Foundation, Safilo Group, and TOYOTA. Click here for a full list of partners. Engage with us on: Twitter, Facebook, YouTube, Instagram and our blog on Medium.

About Unified Sports

Special Olympics Unified Sports combine athletes—with and without intellectual disabilities—as teammates to showcase the power of Special Olympics’ Unified Sports®, which helps unite communities and foster an environment of acceptance and inclusion. More than a million people worldwide take part in Special Olympics Unified Sports® competitions, helping to break down stereotypes about people with intellectual disabilities. ESPN is the global presenting sponsor and official media sponsor of Special Olympics Unified Sports®.


Connor Mellas
Special Olympics International
M: 212-614-4702