By Cherri Gregg

PHILADELPHIA (CBS) — The Philadelphia International Unity Cup is coming back for the third year, with a major change.

The Unity Cup is the city’s “World Cup style” soccer tournament designed to connect Philadelphia’s immigrant communities.

The tournament has been a hit, expanding each year since it was created. However, cold weather meant a lower turnout at last year’s championship game, so the City of Philadelphia is shifting the schedule.

Instead of a November championship game, the Philadelphia International Unity Cup will kick off August 3, 2018 with a championship game in early October.

“It’ll free us up a lot from a city perspective as far as planning goes with all the major events we have in November,” says Bill Salvatore, Unity Cup Director. “It’ll also help us weatherwise. It was a little chilly last year.”

To help get the word out about the changes, the Parks and Recreation Department is holding information sessions. Part of the goal is to grow the roster of countries participating in the tournament. Last year, there were 48 teams.

“We’re shooting for 60,” says Salvatore, “we already had two new teams show interest and we only had one session.”

Four additional information sessions are planned:

– Wednesday, February 28, 2-3pm: Municipal Services Building, Room 1450 (1401 John F. Kennedy Boulevard) in Center City.

– Thursday, March 1, 7-8pm: James Finnegan Playground (6801 Grovers Avenue) in Southwest Philadelphia

– Thursday, March 22, 7-8pm: Murphy Recreation Center (300 W. Shunk Street) in South Philadelphia

– Thursday, April 5, 7-8pm: Ramp Playground (3300 Solly Avenue) in Northeast Philadelphia

Unity Cup tournament participation is open to men and women 18 years of age and older. There is a limit of 25 players per team.

This year’s tournament will take place from August 3 to October 14, 2018. All games are free and open to the public.

The Philadelphia International Unity Cup is a City of Philadelphia-managed collaboration organized by Philadelphia Parks & Recreation in partnership with the Office of Immigrant Affairs, the Office of the City Representative, the Office of Arts & Culture, Mural Arts Philadelphia, and the Office of Community Services.

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