Previewing the Philadelphia International Unity Cup

Photo: Marjorie Elzey

The Philadelphia International Unity Cup is an annual World Cup style soccer tournament run by the Philadelphia Parks and Recreation department.

The tournament kicks off this weekend and will run through October, so there will be plenty of chances to catch a game and cheer on one of the 48 teams competing.

Mike Cherry, who runs a lot of the behind the scenes prep work for the tournament, notes “this year, we are modeling the tournament off of the new World Cup format for 2026 which includes 48 teams – 16 groups of three teams, with the top two teams in each group advancing to the single elimination 32 team bracket.”

The Unity Cup was the idea of Philadelphia Mayor Jim Kenney. When he took office in January of 2016, he had the idea of the Unity Cup to unite the different immigrant communities in the city of Philadelphia through soccer. Seven months later, the first Unity Cup game was held and has been a staple in the city every summer since (excluding 2020).

The tournament has seen positive growth since the inaugural tournament in 2016. Per Cherry, “In the first year, the tournament consisted of 32 teams. The following year, the tournament consisted of 48 teams and quickly grew to 52 the following year. The number of teams stayed at 52 until this year when we shrunk the tournament to follow the new World Cup format.”

The Unity Cup has also seen positive fan growth over the years as well. Andrew Alter, Communications Specialist with the Philadelphia Parks and Recreation department, said that “our social medias have also increased with 1,800 followers on Instagram, 1,600 followers on Twitter, and 2,600 followers on Facebook.”

It should be no surprise that Philadelphia was selected as a host city for the 2026 World Cup. The Unity Cup is another example of the vast player talent pool within the area and showcases the overall interest in the game of soccer that continues to thrive and grow locally. Most of the players are from the Philadelphia area and teams are allowed to bring in players from up to 30 minutes from outside the city. Players can join a team by contacting the captain of each team. Most teams have tryouts and will select the best 25 players for the team they submit to be in the tournament.

The Unity Cup also partners heavily with Eastern Pennsylvania Youth Soccer Association as a way to connect with the future soccer stars of Philadelphia who may one day wear the kits of a Unity Cup team as player in the tournament.

Speaking of kits, merchandise is for sale during the games that are played at Ramp Playground and fans can order jerseys after the first weekend of group stage games. All games are free to attend.

Check out the full game schedule here and follow along for updates via Facebook, Twitter and Instagram @PHLUnityCup. Scores, game schedules, standings, and other information can be found on the Unity Cup website unitycup.phila.gov.

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