Soccer’s version of College GameDay is coming to Philadelphia in April.
NBC is bringing its Premier League studio shows to the city on the weekend of April 4 and 5, and will broadcast from a stage at Dilworth Park outside City Hall.
Fans will be able to watch from early Saturday morning into the afternoon, then again on Sunday morning and afternoon. There will be a free-of-charge ticketed area (click here for details), but anyone will be welcome to attend.
NBC first announced that it was coming to Philadelphia in mid-December, without any further details. The network revealed its plans to The Inquirer in the last few days ahead of an official announcement later Monday.
Philadelphia will be the sixth city to which NBC has brought its Premier League shows, and it’s a natural destination. This market has a history of good EPL TV ratings, and of course it’s the home of NBC’s corporate parent Comcast.
The choice of Dilworth Park is a surprise, though. Comcast owns a natural event space in Xfinity Live, but NBC wanted a downtown location.
“As somebody who loves the sports side of Philadelphia, I think we were very much seeing the images from parades and championships the city has won,” said NBC Sports director of consumer engagement Dan Palla, a central New Jersey native. “Dilworth Park is an amazing space with the backdrop of City Hall. There’s something that screams Philadelphia, and that sense of place is really important for this event.”
The ticketed perimeter will be necessary in part because alcohol will be served within it. (If you’re new to this, American soccer fans are well accustomed to drinking beer in the morning.) Not all of the logistics planning is done yet — the last meetings are in early March — but Palla said the show “will take up the majority, if not the entirety, of Dilworth as well as different portions surrounding City Hall.”
City officials have been on board all along, with representation from the Center City District, Convention and Visitors Bureau and the mayor’s office. Mayor Kenney is a longtime soccer fan, as is his deputy chief of staff Vaughn Ross.
Asked if there will be any cost to taxpayers, Palla said Comcast and the Premier League are sponsoring the event, and “we want to make sure that we're supporting and giving back to the city in as many ways as possible.”
Ross said “we’re not at a point where we think [the cost] is significant at all,” and called the event “really low-impact … this isn’t like the NFL Draft or anything like that."
Expect NBC Sports Philadelphia to get involved with the event too, on what’s already a huge weekend for local sports. The Phillies host the Brewers that Saturday (4 p.m.) and Sunday (1 p.m.), the first weekend of the season, and the Sixers host the Orlando Magic on Sunday (also 1 p.m.).
All of those games will be televised on NBC’s local channels, and NBCSN’s national broadcasts will allude to them.
"It's something that we thought strategically a lot about, and I think you will see in our coverage," Palla said. "This is great exposure for sports fans in a great sports city, as well as nationally to show this is probably a lot bigger and more popular than anyone knows."
You might not hear much about the Union though, and not just because they (and the Flyers) are out of town that weekend. NBC doesn’t broadcast Union games locally or MLS games nationally, so its interest is limited.
There will be celebrity guests, and while NBC hasn’t confirmed them yet, new Premier League CEO Richard Masters is expected to be here. Suffice to say the network knows that Carli Lloyd is Delran’s most famous Liverpool fan, and Joel Embiid supports Arsenal.
“We’re also very aware that not so far away in the in the town of Hershey, Pennsylvania, there’s a Chelsea star,” Palla added, referring to Hershey native Christian Pulisic. He wouldn’t come here for the event, of course, but he might play for the Blues at West Ham that Sunday (9 a.m. Eastern) in one of English soccer’s old-school rivalries.
Other big games that weekend include Sheffield United hosting Tottenham Hotspur on Saturday (12:30 p.m.), with major UEFA Champions League qualifying implications; and Manchester City hosting Liverpool Sunday (11:30 a.m.).
Liverpool will probably have already clinched the title by then, but the game will still be big. If the Reds are still unbeaten on the season at that point, that game would tie the Premier League record for longest ever unbeaten streak. Manchester City, the defending champion, would of course love to stop it.
Though Pulisic won’t be here in April, city and Comcast officials very much hope he’ll be here in 2026 when the United States, Canada and Mexico co-host the men’s World Cup. After a few quiet months, local officials are starting to ramp up Philadelphia’s hosting bid efforts again, and plan to use the Premier League festival as a PR showcase.
“Our bid to host the World Cup in 2026 is based upon our big event pedigree — and on the sports and soccer passion in our diverse city,” said bid chairman David L. Cohen, Comcast’s senior executive vice president and one of the city’s top power players. He called NBC’s visit “a perfect opportunity to showcase our region’s enthusiasm for soccer and for bringing the 2026 World Cup to Philadelphia.”
By the way, Comcast’s Telemundo owns Spanish-language World Cup TV rights through 2026. Expect Cohen to use that as leverage behind the scenes.
Ross also hopes to showcase the sport’s big fan base in the city — including to its own citizens who don’t care for it.
“Millennials are embracing soccer in a way that their parents and grandparents didn’t, and our millennial population in Philadelphia is growing,” he said. “We’re also seeing what the impact of immigration can mean for Philadelphia as a soccer city. … Folks who are coming to America, coming to Philadelphia, can be a part of their city but also represent where they came from through soccer."