52 teams to come together for Philadelphia's Unity Cup championship

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52 teams to come together for Philadelphia's Unity Cup championship. Rick Williams reports during Action News at 6 a.m. on October 7, 2018.

For the past three months, 52 teams have been battling it out on the soccer field to compete for the Unity Cup championship trophy.

Bill Salvatore, Unity Cup Director with the Philadelphia Parks & Recreation Department oversees this massive effort.

"It's an interestingly passionate game. Where that on the field they really want to compete and go at each other hard for 90 plus minutes," says Salvatore.

"It's very competitive. All the teams, they want to win," says Russel Sabatani.

"But soon as the games over, they understand the purpose of the tournament, and they hug and they congratulate each other," Salvatore says.

Players from 52 countries, representing Philadelphia's burgeoning immigrant community, proudly come together to play in this amateur soccer tournament.

"We have 18 African countries represented this year, nine European, eight Asian, a couple North American, some Caribbean, South America, and Central America. We're doing great," says Salvatore.

The league is in its third year, and was one of the first intiatives of Mayor Jim Kenney.

"He had this idea to make the city more unified by the universal sport of soccer," Salvatore says. "The Philadelphia International Unity Cup is an international style soccer tournament to unite the immigrant communities of Philadelphia, and to connect them better with their government."

6abc is a proud sponser of the tournament, along with Goya Foods whose mission is to promote healthy eating while unifying the community.

"We're very proud that we're part of this process of bringing people together, this time not with food but with athletics," says Rafael Toro, Director of Public Relations at Goya Foods.

And the Unity Cup has expanded its reach since its debut in 2016.

"Year one we had 32 teams, representing 32 different countries. Last year we grew to 48, and this year we're proud to say we're at 52," says Salvatore.

New this year, each team got to customize their own unique uniforms.

"Instead of just having a plain green and a white for home and away, you know Sierra Leone has the blue and the white mixed in, and their socks match, and their shorts match, and the teams love it so much. So much so, that you'll see some of their fans wearing them," Salvatore says.

The Championship game will be held at Talen Energy Stadium, and it's free to the public.

"So we're going to start with a youth game at 12:00," says Salvatore. "After that we'll roll into a naturalization ceremony. Last year, we welcomed 27 new Americans, this year we're hoping to do the same."

And the highlight of the event? The parade of nations.

"Where all 52 countries get to come back, and they will march through Talen Energy Stadium with the teams and their communities," says Salvatore.

And this tournament is about more than just claiming the big prize.

"It's a celebration of everything we've done over the course of three months," Salvatore says. "It's really a way to bring everybody together."

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