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James Sands completes loan move to Glasgow Rangers


New York City FC’s James Sands is fresh off a breakout 2021 that saw him excelle for club and country, and that success has led to a major move to a storied European club.

Sands is joining Scottish Premiership club Glasgow Rangers on an 18-month loan with an option to buy him when the loan concludes in the summer of 2023, New York City FC and Rangers both announced on Wednesday.

“While this has been a difficult decision for me to leave a Club that I love, I feel it is time in my career to test myself in another league and face a new challenge in Europe,” Sands wrote in a statement issued by NYCFC. “Rangers is an incredible club in a very competitive league with high expectations and a passionate fanbase. It will be a fantastic learning curve for me, and one that I feel ready for.’’

The 21-year-old Sands has become known for his versatility and defensive acumen with NYCFC and the U.S. men’s national team. Sands started every match of the 2021 Gold Cup, becoming one of the national team’s biggest surprises and most promising defender prospects.

Sands made his USMNT debut in the Gold Cup against Haiti, then helped NYCFC win its first MLS Cup in club history with a shootout win over the Portland Timbers. Sands made seven total USMNT appearances in the previous year.

A versatile player capable of lining up as a defensive midfielder or central defender, Sands made 26 league appearances for NYCFC in 2021. He has played in 65 matches for the club since making his debut at 17 years old in 2017.

Rangers coach Giovanni van Brockhorst has some connections with NYCFC and the USMNT. Van Brockhorst was in the running for the NYCFC head coaching job after Domenec Torrent left the club following the 2019 season. Van Brockhorst, a former midfielder for Rangers and the Netherlands, played at Ibrox Stadium alongside USMNT great Claudio Reyna.

Rangers sits atop the Scottish Premiership with 51 points, six ahead of Celtic. Rangers leads the league with 43 goals scored and boasts a stout defense with only 14 goals allowed.

Sands will be on the other side of the Old Firm derby from Celtic centerback and fellow American Cameron Carter-Vickers. Sands joins a growing list of Americans in the Scottish league, including Aberdeen striker Christian Ramirez and Dundee United midfielder Ian Harkes.


  1. Seems like a waste of a career, but it is his career not mine.

    Way more important….NYC, how much did they get?

  2. The SPL is not what it once was. Outside of Rangers & Celtic it’s actually fairly weak. The 1 positive would be that at Rangers Sands will get a shot at playing CL and/or EL matches. Otherwise this move is most likely a lateral move with a better paycheck.
    I hope the coach has an eye towards deploying him as a CDM as that is a position the USMNT has a real need for depth. Other than Adams we lack anyone who can play the position consistently at a Good Level.
    Overall it’s good to see some of young talent getting opportunities to transfer from MLS to European clubs. Some of this is the academies getting players ready at a young enough age that they have 2-3 years of professional experience/tape that gives Euro clubs a belief that these transfers could work and still have the ability to possibly sell players on. Some of it is that MLS has realized that selling players at a reasonable price with a sell-on clause is better than over valuing players and losing them on a free transfer a year or 2 later.

  3. We’ve seen other US players make a transfer (Sargent, Hoppe), and discover they made a bad move. I am thinking with Sands he is being prudent, and going to a club that has a clear role for him, and a coach who has a plan for his talents. Unlike other recent transfers, there is no risk Rangers will get relegated, He will step in and play in CL or EL, which is a plus.

    As much as I like Pepi’s move, it was the wealthy US owner that pushed for the transfer, not as much the coaching staff, and there is the risk of relegation.

  4. But Scotland? Is that really a good move for him? It seems like MLS guys who want to go to Europe, but are kind of average players are going and doing better than they did in MLS. Seems like it might be a step down in quality. Perhaps he is more in the shop window at Rangers? I would have expected a move to the bundesliga or France for Sands.

    • At least Rangers and/or Celtic play Champions League or Europa League. Still, I agree that Scotland is not a top league. I think even Belgium would be better.

    • + “I would have expected a move to the bundesliga or France for Sands.”
      Sands is the seller. The clubs are the buyers. It seems the French and the Germans weren’t buying what he is selling.

      + If Sands wants to move to a big deal European club, a successful run at Rangers can only help. It will prove he can adapt to a new club and culture. Not everyone can do that.

      And playing for Rangers is more visible. Sands is not Ramirez or Harkes who are both considerably (in soccer terms) older and have less upside.

      + If Rangers is a dead end and suck so much how come their last manager just got hired by Aston Villa? If Sands is hot shit, he’ll be well placed to move to a “bigger” club. If he isn’t, it won’t matter.

      + “Sands started every match of the 2021 Gold Cup, becoming one of the national team’s biggest surprises and most promising defender prospects.” Really? That writer wasn’t watching the same Gold Cup I saw.

      The USMNT manager rates Sands as a CB not a DM which is where he is needed. Sands would be a much greater value to the team if he could backup Adams but right now it seems he’s seen as a CB . His odds of getting to Qatar are not good as a CB as things look right now.

      + Sands got the move because of Original Gio being familiar with NYFC. Rangers need a defensive midfielder but I don’t see Sands beating out Kamara. Maybe Original Gio will use Sands as a center back. Like the USMNT need another one.

  5. If there was any anti-American bias, it is a thing of the past. Seems like any young player having a good season gets a European offer before long.

    • For realz. And it’s top teams biting now.

      Clearly the Euro guys are aware that MLS produces underpaid talents and a bumper crop of young guys with upside. I remember watching Owen Coyle when he was with Houston just ranting on about FC Dallas’s youth program….he thought it scandalous and possibly illegal that FCD was sitting on that many young players, and they were just allowed to have them all and nobody was fighting them for them.

      Obviously the word is now out about just how much young talent the USA is producing. They show even a little the Euro scouts are all over them now.

      • Yeah, and more than once we have seen a young player who hardly got a look by his MLS team go overseas and be starting after a season or so.

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