Forget the Eagles or the Phillies, “futbol” will be the sport that brings people together in Philadelphia, if Mayor Jim Kenney has his way this spring with the Philadelphia International Unity Cup (PIUC), a first-ever city-wide soccer tournament.
Parks and Recreation Commissioner Kathryn Ott Lovell said she was maybe on the job “for 30 minutes” before she heard that Kenney had the idea to have a city soccer tournament, and to get to work on it.
The PIUC will be organized in the style of the FIFA World Cup, with 32 local teams each representing a different nation. Each will compete in pool-play games across the city this fall, followed by a knockout series in October to determine the top two teams that will play in the championship game at Citizens Bank Park in November.
Ott Lovell said this will be the first time a soccer game will be played in a baseball stadium.
“There will be representation from Asian, African, Middle Eastern, European, and Latin American countries,” she said.
“This tournament will be a true example of the nations that make up our city. This tournament will be a way for those countries to not only show pride in their home countries, but also to show pride in their new home, which is our wonderful city of Philadelphia.”
The Philadelphia Parks and Recreation Department will be organizing the logistics of the tournament and the Office of Immigrant Affairs is leading outreach to the city’s immigrant communities for recruitment.
“We think this is one of the best ways of bringing our communities together – having really good competition, having really good teamwork and brotherhood and sisterhood and we think this is the best way to go,” Kenney said.
As the summer progresses, Kenney said the tournament will work its way through elimination brackets to quarter finals, semifinals and then onto finals, until Philadelphia dubs an “International Unity Cup Soccer Champion.”
“I think it’s something that’s going to be a tradition in the city going forward,” he said.
“We know of no other city in America that’s doing this and we hope to set the trend for other cities in the future and perhaps we’ll have a city-by-city competition, at some point, with the winner playing the winner in New York or Boston or Chicago, and the like.”
The tournament is open to men and women 18 years of age and older with a limit of 25 players per team. Teams are responsible for creating their own rosters and will be asked to register with the city no later than May 16. A letter of commitment with details about the tournament will be available at all city recreation centers, in the Office of Immigrant Affairs in City Hall and online beginning Friday, April 15, at www.phila.gov/unitycup.
To register, the letter of commitment and a deposit check or money order in the amount of $100 made payable to the City of Philadelphia must be submitted in-person at the Office of Immigrant Affairs, Room 110 City Hall.