“When you bring people together around one commonality, it’s the foundation for an important cultural exchange and understanding that increases tolerance across the city.” -Philadelphia Mayor Jim Kenney
The Philadelphia International Unity Cup is one of the highlights of the summer and fall sports schedule and another example of why the city has become such an exciting hot bed for competitive soccer. Created by Mayor Jim Kenney in 2016, the annual World Cup-style tournament was designed to be a tangible way to celebrate the favorite sport of the many immigrant groups that call Philadelphia home.
Each June, the celebration kicks off with the Unity Cup draw during Immigrant Heritage Month. Matches are traditional held over a two-month period, from early August until mid-October, and the championship is held at Subaru Park in Chester, Pennsylvania, home of Major League Soccer’s Philadelphia Union. The tournament adheres to the same rules as the FIFA World Cup, with qualifying rounds giving way to a group stage followed by a knockout stage. Teams are seeded in a round-robin tournament and points are awarded for wins and losses to rank them. All the games are free to spectators.
Open to any foreign-born resident or Philadelphia native, last year’s tournament saw more than 50 teams (almost 1,000 players) enter the competition with talent-laden rosters representing several diverse continents, including Africa, Asia, North America, Europe, South America, plus Central America, the Middle East and the Caribbean. Liberia beat the United States 3-0 in the 2019 final to take home its second consecutive title, but the U.S. squad made history in the process. It was the first time they ever advanced to championship weekend. The tournament drew thousands of spectators.
Philadelphia is the first American city to honor the “Beautiful Game” in this type of manner, paying such a glowing tribute to immigrants. Other American cities have replicated the event and there is also a Unity Youth League for children.