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James Sands returns to NYCFC, signs new MLS contract


James Sands’ loan spell with Scottish Premiership club Rangers came to an end on Wednesday with the American midfielder heading back to parent club New York City FC.

Sands has rejoined NYCFC for the continuation of the 2023 MLS campaign, both clubs announced. The first-ever NYCFC homegrown signing also agreed to a new MLS contract, which will run through the 2027 season.   

“I would like to thank James for his time at Rangers,” Rangers manager Michael Beale said. “He was a well-liked player in our squad and I enjoyed working with him on a daily basis. I believe he will go on to have an excellent career.”

Sands arrived in Glasgow during the 2021-22 campaign and proceeded to total one goal in 41 appearances across all competitions for Rangers. The 22-year-old helped Rangers win the 2022 Scottish Cup, as well as reach the 2021 UEFA Europa League Final and take part in the 2022-23 UEFA Champions League group stage.

Sands made his NYCFC debut in 2017 and logged 76 appearances across all competitions for the Eastern Conference club prior to his loan move abroad. Sands helped guide NYCFC to its first trophy in 2021 while also earning NYCFC Young Player of the Year honors.

“I am excited to return to New York,” Sands said. “As someone who grew up in New York and played for local youth teams and the NYCFC academy, it was and continues to be a great honor to represent this Club. NYCFC has had a tremendous impact on my development, the Club’s support of my initial step in Europe and continued understanding of my career goals has been very important to me. 

“I would like to thank Rangers for the fantastic opportunity to play with a top-notch European team,” he added. “Reaching the Europa League final, playing in the Champions League, and winning the Scottish Cup are just a few of the many positive memories that I will take away with me. The level of support from the Rangers’ fans is second to none.”

NYCFC opened its 2023 league schedule last Saturday with a 2-0 road loss to Nashville SC.


  1. I’d call his loan stint with Rangers “moderately successful.” Definitely wasn’t a total disaster and he got a bunch of minutes and into a bunch of games though he didn’t grab the starting job and make himself a regular.

    He’s a good player, upper 25% in MLS for sure. I’d want him on my team if I had an MLS squad. Dunno if he’s an International-level player and his loan spell with Rangers suggests he’s not quite a Champions League-type player (even in a lesser Euro league like the SPL) but his performances with Rangers and in MLS suggest he’s going to have a fairly successful MLS career, and that ain’t half-bad at all. You also wonder if he might do better than that and grow into a Tim Ream-type player; the two have a similar skillset (though Ream is a leftie) and if he can match Ream’s level of cerebral play he well could one day. Guy is only 22, and I don’t think he’s hit his ceiling yet.

    Good on him for stepping up and taking a shot with Rangers. It’ll help him a bunch over the long run.

    • Kinda disappointed to see him back in the MLS. I had higher expectations for him. Did he play CB or DM over with the Rangers?

      • CB, at least in the two games I actually caught part of. Dunno if he played mid for them at all. I’m not sure he’s done. As a smaller CB he’s going to have to be near-perfect in his positioning and 1-on-1 defending and he isn’t there yet, but Tim Ream is a good example of what a really cerebral guy who distributes well out of the back can achieve even with limited physical tools. And Sands is a better athlete than Ream…though Ream is definitely helped by the fact that he’s a leftie and those guys are (literally) 1000% harder to find than rightees are.

      • re positioning his usage was 80-20 (percent) CB vs DM. but he was playing some mid.

        i don’t watch them play but the game logs say they got him on loan jan 22 then ben davies bought summer 22, he got first shot at starting, the scores look high and erratic, a lot of 1-1 or 3-2, they bench him, throw davies out instead, mostly wins, shutouts.

        that being said, some of the submissiveness to scottish assessments is odd. SPL outside the old firm is lateral or maybe even a step down. even the old firm, to me, is cheap. they pay maybe 30-50% more than MLS. they had weah on loan at celtic and passed. they made a lowball bid on elis when he was in houston. this is not big money europe and you have to consider they made a cost-benefit analysis as much as anything. it’s more like MLS and less like CFC or PSG buying anyone that moves.

    • It’s hard to really evaluate this because the manager who brought him in, the original Gio, got fired in the middle of Sand’s time.

      Sands was up and down before the firing but still that might have made it very tough on Sands.


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