Icarus Cup brings a festival of soccer fashion and culture to Philly this weekend

This year, 80 teams will be competing in the Icarus Cup alongside live music, food, and drinks at Drexel University.

Women playing soccer

Teams compete during 2023 Icarus Cup in Philadelphia. (Courtesy of Icarus Cup)

More than 1,000 soccer players from across the United States will descend upon Philadelphia this weekend for the city’s third annual Icarus Cup.

The 7v7 grassroots tournament isn’t just a celebration of the game itself — it aims to be a festival of soccer culture for the city’s grassroots communities and beyond.

Each team will don exclusive and unique kits provided by Philly’s very own soccer kit design brand Icarus Football. The cup is being held in collaboration with CASA Philadelphia, a recreational soccer league in the city.

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This year, 80 teams will compete in the tournament. Alongside the soccer, spectators can expect an array of food trucks, live music, and a beverage garden featuring local brands like Two Robbers and Kenwood Beers.

Tournament director Charlie Shea said the number of teams competing has nearly doubled since the tournament started.

One of the players participating in the 2022 Icarus Cup in Philadelphia. (Courtesy of Icarus Cup)

“We’re just doing things better this year, like we’ve never had food trucks, but this year, we’ve got cool Philly food,” Shea said. “We’re just like making things a lot better, and the word is out, and our retention rate for teams is super high. Like almost all the teams come back.”

Robby Smukler started Icarus in his bedroom in 2017, which has since expanded operations to a warehouse in Kensington in Philly, and an office in London. The team designs up to 250 new kit concepts a week.

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Smuckler has been designing soccer kits since he was a child, sketching kits for imaginary clubs from cities and countries he had researched the history of. He said he was inspired to turn it into a business when he started playing in CASA and saw the lack of exciting uniforms every team was wearing.

“My thinking was, ‘All right, let’s give a way for these teams to express their identity,’” Smuckler said.

Teams compete during 2023 Icarus Cup in Philadelphia. (Courtesy of Icarus Cup)

Smukler says his brand might never get as big as the giants in the world of soccer kits, such as Nike, Adidas, and Puma —  but that’s kind of the point. Icarus’ direct connection with its consumers will continue to set it apart from the rest.

“I think the reason we’re successful as a business is because we’re right under them,” Smukler said. “We’re essentially giving you the whole design agency experience and, you know, take into account what matters to your club, what your culture is instead of just buying something off the rack.”

While the football and entertainment brings people in, the kits play a role in people coming back. Each year, one-of-a-kind new uniforms are designed for each team playing in the cup. Teams got to select their design on a first-come, first-served basis once they were registered, which led some to sign up as soon as registration opened, for fear of missing out on their favorite look.

Smukler said the tournament places more of an emphasis on the passion for the game, rather than the goal of winning.

One of the players participating in the 2022 Icarus Cup in Philadelphia. (Courtesy of Icarus Cup)

“Our goal with this is to kind of recreate those amazing moments when you’re younger, playing in youth tournaments with your best friends,” Smukler said. “It’s like this fun opportunity to get out and be a kid again, you know, and have some beverages as well.”

CASA offers a similar experience for soccer-playing adults, and the league brings its mantras of “for players, by players,” and remaining inclusive to all, “regardless of background, gender identity, or skill level” to the tournament.

“Hopefully we’re running these, you know, 20 to 30 years in the future, and people will have 20 to 30 jerseys they’ve worn for this tournament,” Smukler said.

Teams compete during 2023 Icarus Cup in Philadelphia. (Courtesy of Icarus Cup)

The tournament will take place at the Vidas Athletic Complex on Drexel University’s campus from July 7 to July 8. An opening ceremony will be held at Craft Beer Hall Friday night.

Food options during the tournament will include Tabachoy, Char Pizza, Pom Pom, Dimi, Hummingbird Island, Tropical Treats, Playa Bowls, and Small Oven Pastry Shop.

Other indie soccer brands are partnering with the tournament, representing apparel, magazines, video games, and apps. Staff from the Philadelphia Union will assist with events, and local community soccer organization Kensington Soccer Club will also be there.

Editor’s note: WHYY’s Nick Kariuki volunteers as a coach for Kensington SC.

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