Unity Cup returns for 6th tournament, bridging neighborhoods, nationalities

PHILADELPHIA (KYW Newsradio) — The World Cup may be coming to Philly in 2026, but for those who need their soccer fix sooner than that, the city’s Unity Cup is coming back.

The sixth annual Unity Cup tournament will feature 48 teams over several months, starting Aug. 5. The tournament is meant to unite Philadelphia neighborhoods and celebrate the city’s diverse immigrant communities through soccer.

With 16 groups of three teams each, it will model the new World Cup format. The top two teams in each group will advance to a 32-team knockout stage.

Mayor Jim Kenney drew teams for the opening rounds on Wednesday. Members of various teams at the ceremony Wednesday had a lot to say about the importance of the tournament and what makes it bigger than the game.

Mayor Jim Kenney drew teams for the opening rounds on Wednesday.
Mayor Jim Kenney drew teams for the opening rounds on Wednesday. Photo credit Philadelphia Parks and Recreation

“Last year I was a player, but this year I will be a coach,” said Mohamed Yattassayi.

Yattasayi, who was born and raised in Mali, West Africa, loves soccer. He says the 52-nation tournament has truly united his countrymen.

“A community garden for us,” he said. “It’s been really great for us, because it helped us locate one of our younger brothers we didn’t have a chance to see and was living in Philly. So it brings all of our community together.”

The tournament is meant to unite Philadelphia neighborhoods and celebrate the city’s diverse immigrant communities through soccer.
The tournament is meant to unite Philadelphia neighborhoods and celebrate the city’s diverse immigrant communities through soccer. Photo credit Justin Udo/KYW Newsradio

He says words cannot express how it feels to see childhood friends from his home country, who he lost contact with, be brought back together through a game that lets people from all nationalities compete against each other.

“It feels great because some of them, we were actually looking for them. It’s like when you’re in Southwest Philadelphia, your only community is southwest Philadelphia, but because of the Unity Cup it doesn’t matter if you’re in Germantown, Southwest, West Philly — we’re all gathered together, now.”

Mayor Jim Kenney drew teams for the opening rounds on Wednesday
Photo credit Philadelphia Parks and Recreation

Yattassayi says the tournament has also given him the opportunity to build bonds with people from other countries.

“It helps us understand each other. We have different culture, different dialect, different language, but the Unity Cup helps us know each other well,” he said.

The Unity Cup began in 2016 with 32 teams. This year, the tournament will introduce four new teams to represent Angola, Dominican Republic, Portugal and Uruguay.

48 teams will compete in the 2022 Philadelphia Unity Cup
Forty-eight teams will compete in the 2022 Philadelphia Unity Cup. Photo credit Philadelphia Parks and Recreation

Cup games will be free to the public, and a schedule will be available on the Unity Cup website by early next week.

Anyone interested in volunteering can contact PHLUnityCup@phila.gov.