Philadelphia Unity Cup

2017 Philadelphia International Unity Cup: A review so far

Photo courtesy of Philadelphia Unity Cup

The Philadelphia International Unity Cup kicked off this past September for the second consecutive year. The brainchild of current Philadelphia Mayor Jim Kenney – funded through a hearty collection of partners, sponsors  and volunteers – the Unity Cup is a World Cup style tournament comprised of 48 total teams representing the various immigrant communities throughout the city. The addition of 16 new teams was made possible by city officials once they decided a cap on the number of teams was unnecessary this time around.

2017’s tournament features the addition of a Refugee Team whose formation was inspired by the all-Refugee team that competed in the most recent Summer Olympic games. PSP will be posting an in-depth article on the Refugee Team’s formation and results in addition to interviews with players this week.

Quick tournament breakdown

Only one team can represent a country. To properly register a team, an official letter of commitment along with a $100 check needed to be submitted to the Office of Immigrant Affairs in person.

The 48 teams were divided into 12 groups (A-J) of four teams each. Matches have been played at four different locations throughout the city. Details on teams and group placements can be found here.

Photo courtesy of Philadelphia Unity Cup

Round One

Sept. 8 was opening night for the 2017 Unity Cup. Northeast Philadelphia would be the location as two matches took place at the Ramp Playground site on Solly Avenue near Father Judge High School.

Puerto Rico took on Indonesia in the first match, made seven goals, and held a clean sheet for a 7-0 win. Ukraine surprisingly lost their first match against Brazil 3-1 in the tournament’s second match.

Argentina, Haiti, Honduras, Ghana, Germany, Ireland, Senegal, and Sierra Leone all held clean sheets during their victories. Italy defeated the newly formed Refugee Team 6-2. There were only four games that ended in draws: Nigeria v. Lithuania, Jamaica v. Mongolia, USA v. Myanmar, and Ethiopia v. Iraq. The Ethiopia v. Iraq match-up proved to be the only match that ended with a scoreless draw. Full round results here.

Round Two

The second round was scheduled the weekend of the 16th & 17th as soccer was back in action throughout the city once again.

Cambodia, India, Indonesia, Iraq, Israel, and Togo went another match without recording a goal, a tough start for those teams. Argentina, Germany, and Sierra Leone all earned clean sheets again during their victories. Greece, Italy, Jamaica, Mongolia, and USA also claimed shutout wins throughout weekend’s bevy of games. There were no draws.

16 teams remained unbeaten – while another 16 remained winless. Brazil, Colombia, Greece, Germany, Haiti, Mexico, Sierra Leone, and Serbia looked to be the cream of the crop through the first two rounds of play. Full second round results here.

Round Three

The third round of play kicked off Saturday, Sept. 23 as Ukraine crushed Panama 8-1. Several great match-ups occurred throughout round three. Eight of the 16 remaining unbeaten teams faced off against each other providing fans with some great soccer.

Italy topped Guatemala 3-1 to set up a hopeful return to the knockout round for the Italians. The homeland of Haris Medunjanin, Bosnia-Herzegovina defeated a tough Argentina team 3-2. Puerto Rico blanked Greece winning 5-0. Brazil remained perfect with a 7-0 win over Ghana.

Ireland and Mexico finished 5-5. Germany was also unable to come up with a W and tied Ethiopia 5-5. Sierra Leone continued winning against Haiti, 3-0. Serbia won to improve to 3-0 and Ivory Coast tied 2-2 against Lithuania to remain unbeaten. Senegal shocked Colombia 3-2, which delivered the Colombians their first loss.

Six teams went into the elimination portion of the Unity Cup without a lost: Bosnia-Herzegovina, Germany, Ireland, Ivory Coast, Mexico, and Sierra Leone.

Play-in Round (First Knockout Round)

24 teams remained heading into the first weekend of October. Ethiopia and Lithuania limped in with the 24 and 23 seeds. USA ranked 22nd and last year’s champion, Ivory Coast ranked 9th.

Previews were published in the beginning of October which detailed the exciting matchups that ultimately determined how the knockout round (Round of 16) would go. The top eight teams enjoyed a nice break from soccer action as they received a well-earned bye during the weekend of Oct. 7 and 8. Those top eight teams were:

  1. Sierra Leone                         5. Bosnia-Herzegovina
  2. Brazil                                     6. Serbia
  3. Puerto Rico                           7. Honduras
  4. Italy                                       8. Mongolia

Teams ranked 9th through 24th would then compete against each other for a spot in the Final 16.

Saturday, Oct. 7 was filled with great soccer. #17 Colombia took on #16 Argentina, both fresh off one-goal losses. #18 Ukraine faced #15 Haiti, two of the more physical squads in the tournament. A tough match-up for #22 USA against #11 Ireland rounded up the night at Ramp Playground. #16 Argentina, #18 Ukraine, and #22 USA advanced.

A soccer marathon in Northeast Philly took place Sunday the 8th. The day began at 12 PM with #21 Guatemala losing to a better #12 Senegal and ended with #24 Ethiopia taking a loss to their South West Philly neighbors #9 Ivory Coast. In between, three more matches went down. #23 Lithuania could not stop the #10 Germany offense. #20 Greece lost to an athletic #13 Jamaica team. The best match-up of the round was #19 Liberia played #14 Mexico. Liberia’s offense was too strong for Mexico.

Round of 16

The Round of 16 took place at La Salle University’s McCarthy Stadium and Penn Park at the University of Penn. Games were played Saturday, Oct. 14 and Sunday, Oct. 15.

#1 Sierra Leone once again could not be stopped, and #22 USA’s Cinderella story was put to bed. #9 Ivory Coast fought hard and lived to see another round as they beat #8 Mongolia. #13 Jamaica continued their winning ways against an undefeated #5 Bosnia-Herzegovina. #4 Italy kept up their solid play and beat a speedy #16 Argentina team.

#3 Puerto Rico handled the always tough #18 Ukrainians. #12 Senegal beat #6 Serbia while #10 Germany topped #10 Guatemala. #19 Liberia defeated #3 Brazil in an exciting match-up. #19 Liberia became the third African team to advance to the final 8.

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Photo courtesy of Philadelphia Unity Cup


Saturday, Oct. 21 at the Temple Sports Complex in North Philly the Unity Cup Quarterfinals took place including three rematches from last year’s tournament. The first was # 4 Italy against #13 Jamaica – Jamaica won that match-up. The next rematch was #10 Germany vs. #19 Liberia. Liberia beat Germany last year 5-2 at Citizens Bank Park. Germany failed to beat Liberia again this year as #19 moved on. #1 Sierra Leone against #9 Ivory Coast was the final rematch. Sierra Leone knocked off the defending champs. #3 Puerto Rico beat #12 Senegal to produce the final four: Sierra Leone, Puerto Rico, Jamaica, and Liberia.

The Final Four (Semi-Finals)
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Photo courtesy of Philadelphia Unity Cup

Oct. 29 was decision day for the final four teams. Sierra Leone squared off against Jamaica. Liberia faced Puerto Rico. Liberia won to make their second consecutive trip to the championship game. Sierra Leone continued to be unstoppable and beat Jamaica.

Saturday, Nov. 11 at 3PM: #13 Jamaica vs. #3 Puerto Rico (Third Place Game)

at 6PM: #1 Sierra Leone vs. #19 Liberia (Championship Game)

More details on the Championship game and all game-day events and festivities can be found here.


  1. Old Soccer Coach says:

    Wouldn’t it be great to see a video of the naturalization ceremony and the parade of nations?
    Thanks for all this work, Matt.

  2. Liberia – Mexico was a classic. It unfortunately ended up in a fight. But it just shows with how much passion these teams play (100% more than the Union).
    Looking forward to see the final between 2 very good teams. Worth going to if you are not doing anything on Nov 11!

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