CHARLOTTE, N.C. (QUEEN CITY NEWS) – A near-record number of student-athletes are set to participate in Special Olympics Mecklenburg County’s Fall Games.

Athletes from nearly 20 Charlotte-Mecklenburg schools will go head-to-head in unified soccer matches. Roughly 600 participants, volunteers, and coaches signed up.

Organizers split the Fall Games into two days, one for schools in the northern part of the county and one for schools in the southern. They say this is partly due to the number of participants and partly to save some teams a long bus ride.

Jamey Petrucci, the director of Special Olympics Mecklenburg County said she notices as the interest in the sporting events grows, so do the connections off the field.

“A lot of the schools have taken the momentum and really made unified classes and made their EC students, or Exceptional Children students, involved with their gen ed students,” she said. “And then once you’re together in a spot and you’re able to play and have fun – it just really brings that joy to everyone.”

In addition to matches, the Fall Games include soccer skills and drills alongside crafts and activities. The bonus games give nearly 200 more athletes a chance to participate.

Many volunteers also play for the school’s varsity and junior varsity soccer squads.

“I just think it’s a fun day and I think others should do it,” said Crystal Kirincic with Hopewell High School.

Athletes take the field at 10 a.m. Tuesday.