Soccer spirits are high in the City of Brotherly love since FIFA selected Philadelphia as one of the 11 cities in the United States to host World Cup matches in 2026. Now, all eyes are on Philadelphia as the city prepares to bring one of the world’s largest sporting events to the country’s most passionate fanbase.
With 2026 right around the corner, soccer excitement is at an all-time high in Philadelphia, most notably in some of the city’s most underserved neighborhoods.
Mayor Jim Kenney and his administration are working to move the needle to create a more equitable landscape across Philadelphia by investing in the city and its unique communities. To build trust with residents, the Kenney administration created the program Rebuild, a historic investment of more than $500 million in neighborhood parks, recreation centers and libraries across Philadelphia.
As a part of the mayor’s first budget focused on building equity, Rebuild promises to acknowledge local history, engage with the community, invest intentionally, uplift pivotal community spaces, empower neighborhoods, and promote economic opportunity through diversity and inclusion.
Yesterday, I joined #RebuildPHL for a ribbon cutting at Gifford Playground in Northeast Philadelphia!
— Mayor Jim Kenney (@PhillyMayor) October 20, 2023
¿But how does this tie into soccer?
Through the Rebuild program, a transformational partnership between the City, the Philadelphia Union Foundation and Eastern Pennsylvania Youth Soccer Association (EPYSA) formed to expand the impact of Rebuild’s investments and bring the game of soccer to all pockets of the city for both youth and adults.
With a combined $1 million commitment from the Union and EPYSA, the tri-partnership is now allowing Rebuild to build 15 mini soccer pitches and two full-size signature fields across Philadelphia, further nurturing Philadelphia’s great appreciation for soccer.
To date, six mini pitch fields have been built across five site locations including Francis J. Myers Recreation Center, Capitolo Playground, Fotterall Square Park, Frank Glavin Playground and Gifford Playground.
These fields are giving children and adults the opportunity to build community. Children and families from all different backgrounds and nationalities can join together as strangers and walk away as friends because of their love for fútbol.
“Having a nice field is important for our kids and our community because every afternoon and weekend we are out here having fun, playing and it’s somewhere safe for us to play soccer,” said Luis Urbine, commissioner of Club Deportivo Los Lobos. “By fixing these fields it has brought a lot of new excitement.”
Club Deportivo Los Lobos, who plays at Capitolo fields in South Philadelphia, is home to nearly 200 youth soccer players. Their former field was dusty and dry with limited grass. Because of Rebuild, they now have the field they need, and deserve, to excel in the sport.
“We are so excited to open these mini pitches alongside our partners, the City of Philadelphia and Eastern PA Youth Soccer,” said Paul Howard, Executive Director, Philadelphia Union Foundation. “With each mini pitch, we are providing a safe space for a new generation of young soccer fans to fall in love with the game.”
Continuing a piece of its mission of Safe Spaces, and with donor support, the Philadelphia Union Foundation, The City of Philadelphia and the Mayor's Office, built their 4th mini pitch in Fotteral Square, last month. pic.twitter.com/VNfhCrKgQT
— Philadelphia Union Foundation (@philaunion_fdn) August 7, 2023
Fotterall Square in North Philadelphia is home to soccer club AC Fairhill, and now, youth have a brand-new facility for matches. Prior to Rebuild, Fotterall Square Park had not been renovated for more than half a century. Kira Strong, Executive Director of Rebuild, knows firsthand how impactful these updates will be on generations to come.
“Fotterall Square Park has been a staple in this community for 56 years, and now this site can proudly carry on its legacy,” said Strong. “Thank you to the Fotterall community advocates who helped us restore this park, your partnership was essential to this renovation.”
With half of Rebuild’s mini soccer pitches complete, the remaining sites will be under construction in 2024, impacting thousands more across Philadelphia.
We cut the ribbon on another mini-pitch today!
📍Gifford Playground, Philadelphia pic.twitter.com/4czdze86Px
— Eastern PA Youth Soccer (@EPAYouthSoccer) October 19, 2023
One may never know; the next World Cup star may come from one of these Philadelphia sites – only time will tell, but the future looks bright.