Philadelphia’s Ukrainian Nationals will host a heritage festival and second-place team showdown on Sunday

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HORSHAM TWP., Pa. — A key showdown between two undefeated National Premier Soccer League teams will highlight a packed day of football and a celebration of Ukrainian heritage at the Ukrainian American Sports Center on Sunday.

The Ukrainian Nationals in Philadelphia are hosting a Ukrainian Father’s Day Festival on Sunday, along with an NPSL game and a number of USASA Region 1 Cup Finals.

“It should be a great day,” said club chief executive Steve Krysko. “There’s going to be dancing, music, other ethnic events and lots of football.”

Matches will begin with the U-23 semi-finals kicking off at 9 a.m., followed by the Gerhard Mengel Over-30 Cup final at 11 a.m., the U-23 championship at 12 p.m., the women’s final at 12:30 p.m. and Werner Fricker Cup at 1 p.m. West Chester United and Jackson Lions – both Keystone Conference rivals of the Ukies in the NPSL – will play in the Werner Fricker Amateur Open Cup final.

Ukrainian heritage activities start at 1 p.m. with music, dance and performances by special guests like Ihor Sypen, Latvian Dance Ensemble Dzirksteele, Nachh Manch Dance School and many more.

The Ukies’ incredible 6-0-0 perfect start to their inaugural season in the NPSL came at a difficult time for Ukraine. A few weeks after the club was officially announced as an NPSL expansion team, Russia invaded Ukraine and caused untold damage to the country with their ongoing unjust war.

The club – originally founded in 1950 by Ukrainians displaced after World War II – responded with fundraising efforts to support humanitarian efforts in the war-torn country and saw an outpouring of support from the from its members, families of young players and even opponents on the football field.

“It really made people realize that they are Ukies and the badge means they are part of something really special,” Krysko said of the club’s young players and teams. “We have teams we play with that give out checks before games.”

A new feature of the club have been Ukrainian flags lining the long driveway on the pitch while a Ukrainian flag with the words “Stand with Ukraine” is displayed prominently between the two benches on the club’s main pitch. The Ukrainian and American national anthems were sung before the NPSL games, which always went well.

Matt Ralph

A recent fundraiser featured a visit from the Philadelphia Union reserve team two Sundays ago. The Ukies also won that game, so their record is 7-0-0 in all competitions so far.

“This NPSL team has just brought a whole new level to the club,” Krysko said. “It’s really what we always hoped it would be.”

Sunday’s opponent – Electric City Shock FC (5-0-1) – will present perhaps the team’s biggest test yet in the NPSL. The level of trust is high, however, for a team that, despite being new, has many connections from players who have played with each other for the Ukies and other area clubs and high school programs. A full roster of 36 mostly college-aged players was an important part of that success.

“What I love about this league so far is that it’s competitive and you can’t sleep on any game,” co-coach Dan Harmon said. “Sunday is going to be another tough one; it is for the first place.

The NPSL match should start at 4:30 p.m. (instead of 3:30 p.m.)

Ukrainian American Sport Center is located at 1 Lower State Rd in North Wales. For more information on the festivities, visit www.tryzub.org.

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