Philly’s grassroots soccer festival returns this weekend

The Icarus Cup returns this weekend for its fourth edition in Philly, with adult grassroots competition, parties and a new skills competition added to its festival of soccer around the city. 

“Icarus Cup is more than just a soccer tournament,” said CASA president Nolan Bair. “It’s a celebration of the soccer community and the passion that unites us all.” 

The 7v7 tournament, co-run by Kensington-based kit designer Icarus Football and recreational adult soccer league CASA, was started back in 2021. It added an Austin, Texas tournament in 2023, with the second edition of that happening last month.

Like last year, 80 teams are registered in various divisions, including clubs from all over the Philadelphia area and across the country. Unlike the celeb-filled, $1 million, winner-take-all TST earlier this year, the Icarus Cup puts the emphasis on passion for soccer, rather than winning.

Two players compete in the 2023 Icarus Cup. (@itsrichimages/Photo courtesy of CASA)

CASA, which formed in 2005, has a similar emphasis of being “for players, by players,” and remaining inclusive to all “regardless of background, gender identity, or skill level.” Beyond the Icarus Cup, it holds the Palangi Cup and the Neighborhood Cup in Philly, as well as leagues and tournaments in Lancaster, Boston and Portland, Maine.

Paul Catrino Jr., founder and captain of Sporting Seratonin, has competed in every Icarus Cup in Philly. He said he’s seen it grow from a “soccer tournament with food and drink available” to a full soccer festival.

“Last year, it was nice. That was really a bigger step in the growth of the tournament, as a whole,” Catrino said. “It really just felt like a great place to kind of sit and relax in between your games, walk around,  get an idea of the people who came in to help support the tournament. It’s a communal effort.”

Paul Catrino Jr., founder and captain of Sporting Seratonin. (Photo Courtesy of Paul Catrino)

This year’s Icarus Cup starts off with a meet and greet Friday night at Craft Hall in Old City, where teams will receive their jerseys. Icarus Football designed unique kits for each of the 80 teams, which they were able to pick from once they registered, in a first-come, first-served format. For teams like Sporting Serotonin that already work with Icarus to create its custom kits, Catrino said the process of choosing this year  from the premade options was fun.  

”It’s tough, man, because there’s so many good kits that you really want it to work for the identity of your team,” Catrino said.

After sharing the designs in the team’s group chat, they decided on a white kit (“We knew it was going to be hot [this weekend]”) with diagonal diamonds in green, yellow and purple (“A lot of our guys do love New Orleans”) and a Heineken logo. The kits are sponsored to help offset some of the tournament’s costs.

Icarus Football’s design director, Jaden Stevenson, came up with more than half of the designs. He’s unable to play this year due to injury, but will help out with the event organizing. He said seeing the teams appreciate and play in his jerseys first-hand is a welcome break from the usual emails and chat logs with clients.

“A lot of them are really passionate about the kits that they picked, and they really love them,” he said. “They like to tell you how much they like them and it’s really cool to hear from them.”

A team poses with their jerseys during the 2023 Icarus Cup festivities. (@jn3_football/Photo courtesy of CASA)

Play kicks off Saturday morning at three satellite sites at Temple University, followed by the knockout stages and festivities at Drexel University’s Vidas Athletic Complex. 

There will be live music, food, a beer garden and other games for folks who aren’t playing. Food and drink vendors include Porco’s Porchetteria & Small Oven Bakery, Rival Bros. Coffee, La Chinesca, Gilda, Blueprint Cookies, Saami Somi and Paffuto.

While there is no space for any more teams, it’s still possible to register as a free agent. Entry is free to come and watch the games and enjoy the pitchside entertainment and offerings. You can even volunteer to help out with the tournament.

A player runs past an opponent in a 2023 Icarus Cup game. (@Kmagaraci/Photo courtesy of CASA)

After all the soccer’s done, there will be a party Saturday at Black Sheep by Rittenhouse Square to celebrate or commiserate from 9 p.m. to midnight.

Catrino said he is hosting teams traveling in from Maine, Texas and Washington D.C.,  and will serve as their liaison and try to provide a good time while they’re in Philly for the weekend. Sporting Seratonin is a club that’s focused on using the sport as a tool for better mental health, rather than just competing. Catrino said that the chance to connect with likeminded teams from outside the area has been an uplifting aspect of the whole tournament.

“It’s something that’s bringing a lot of different soccer communities together in one place, to be representative of Philadelphia, and that’s really an amazing thing,” Catrino said.

Paul Catrino Jr. (third from right) and other members of Sporting Serotonin pose with their kits for the 2023 Icarus Cup. (Photo Courtesy of Paul Catrino)

For those willing to get up at 10:30 a.m., Sunday will have a brand-new skills competition, sponsored by Street FC. Much like the minigames in EA’s video game franchise, players will compete in six challenges, including trying to hit the crossbar of the goal, dribbling, freestyle juggling and goalie wars for the keepers.

Catrino said members of Sporting Serotonin will be competing in the goalie wars, as well as the dribbling and juggling competitions.

“I think it’s a nice addition to the tournament for sure,” he said. “I think it’s a nice palette cleanser for the whole weekend, and something that definitely a lot of people on my team are looking forward to.”

The festival wraps up Sunday with a Euro 2024 final watch party at Carbon Copy Brewing in Cedar Park. The game starts at 3 p.m.

“To plan all that on top of a tournament is going the extra mile in my book,” Catrino said. “Which is why I’ve been coming back every year.”

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