With an eye towards the future, New York City FC has made a milestone signing.
On Wednesday, the club announced that it had signed 16-year-old midfielder James Sands to a Homegrown player contract, effective July 1.
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“I’m really glad for James because he came with us on preseason and he did really well, showing us how good he is,” NYCFC coach Patrick Viera said in a statement. “He fully deserves this contract, he’s a young talent and now we have to help him to develop that talent.”
Sands first joined the NYCFC first team this past offseason, taking part in preseason training and even playing for NYCFC along with Andrea Pirlo in a 2-2 draw in front of 40,000 fans at Ecuador’s Emelec.
There was some talk towards the end of preseason that Sands may sign as a Homegrown player then, but the decision was put off until this summer.
“I’m really excited – this is a big dream come true for me from ever since I was little kid playing in my back yard to now,” Sands said. “Especially when you look at how in just a few short years NYCFC has grown – to be the first Homegrown Player is really special for me.”
Sands likely won’t have much time to make a first-team appearance in MLS this season. The youngster is a crucial piece of the U.S. Under-17 Men’s National Team and is expected to be playing with the U.S. at the FIFA Under-17 World Cup in India this October.
Sands is a bright prospect in the U.S. youth soccer system and it’s a landmark moment for NYCFC, which previously had been more focused on signing high-profile names like Pirlo, David Villa and Frank Lampard. It will be interesting to follow Sands’ progress in the years ahead.