James Sands Signs With New York City FC as Homegrown Player
16-year-old James Sands has signed with New York City FC as the U.S Youth International draws recognition from players and staff within the club. Sands represented the NYCFC first team during preseason this year when he played alongside Andrea Pirlo in Ecuador.
Youth Soccer News: New York City FC has announced James Sands has become the first Homegrown Player in club history. The 16-year old U.S Youth International defender has signed his first professional contract that commences on July 1st.
“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,” said Sands. “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 credits the players and coaches he has worked with over the years who pushed him during his development.
“I really thought about how much I would learn every day working with the players and the coaches at the club and that’s how I know this is the right thing to do for me at this time,” said Sands. “Now I need to be like a sponge, to learn good habits from the people around me and to be confident – I’m really looking forward to coming in, to contributing and I really can’t wait to be out there playing in front of our fans.”
“It’s an exciting day for James, for the football club and for the Academy to have our first Homegrown Player sign – it’s a special moment and we couldn’t have asked for a better person to be the first,” said Sporting Director Claudio Reyna. “James has worked so hard for this and he’s an inspiration for all of our Academy players to realize that with the right habits and dedication they can follow James in signing a professional contract.
“I’m really glad for James because he came with us on preseason and he did really well, showing us how good he is,” said head coach Patrick Vieira. “He fully deserves this contract, he’s a young talent and now we have to help him to develop that talent. It’s really good for us as a football club because it shows how hard and how well the coaches in the Academy have been working for the past few years.”
James represented affiliate organization New York Soccer Club from the age of 10 until he was selected by NYCFC at the development of the U16 Academy side in 2015, along with his twin brother Will. He first came to the attention of NYCFC fans when he became the first-ever Academy product to be called to the first-team roster for preseason earlier this campaign.
Impressing the coaching staff in Jacksonville, Sands went on to shine in the thrilling 2-2 draw versus Emelec in front of 40,000 fans in Guayaquil, Ecuador. At 16, Sands lined up at the base of midfield alongside Andrea Pirlo and received recognition with his influential, mature display, demonstrating his extensive passing range and stellar reading of the game, drawing praise from Vieira and his teammates.
Sands is a USBNT regular, helping his nation to a runners-up spot in the CONCACAF U17 Championships in May where the Yanks lost to Mexico in the final during a penalty shootout.
The NYCFC man scored his penalty in the final and earned a spot on the Team of the Tournament as the United States secured qualification for October’s U17 World Cup in India. Although his opportunities for MLS minutes will be limited in his first season as a professional due to U17 World Cup preparations, Sands will complete summer school in July and will train with the first team around his international obligations.