James Sands has returned to New York City FC as it was announced on Wednesday that the player’s loan at Scottish Premiership side Rangers was terminated and the team will not exercise the option to sign him permanently.
With the22-year-old returning stateside to his Major League Soccer team, he has also signed a new five-year contract through the 2027 season.
“I would like to thank James for his time at Rangers. 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,” said Rangers head coach Michael Beale in a statement on the team’s website.
“The opportunity to return to NYCFC for the start of the MLS season, where he will be a key player in their squad, was something that we felt was correct for all parties. Everyone at Rangers wishes him well moving forwards.”
Sands went on loan to Rangers in January 2022 on an initial 18-month deal with an option to sign him permanently. In his time with the team, he played in 41 games as helped them win the Scottish Cup and make it to the final of last season’s Europa League. He also saw playing time for the team in the group stage of the UEFA Champions League.
The New York native played primarily as a center-back for the Light Blues and saw significant minutes on the field when Giovanni van Bronckhorst was at the helm. However, once Beale took charge and several players recovered from injuries, his playing time diminished as he was not one of the first options to play in his preferred midfield position.
This opened the opportunity for him to return to NYCFC as they have just started the new MLS campaign.
“It was a priority for us to try and ensure James returned to New York this season,” said NYCFC sporting director David Lee in a statement. “Despite opportunities to continue his career in Europe, we are pleased that we’ve been able to reach an agreement on a new contract and convince James that this is the right place for his continued career progression. We know James’ ambition remains to play at the highest levels in Europe and we will continue to support him with his career aspirations.”
“James is not only a special player; he is also a natural leader and fantastic role model, and with his added experience in Europe, we see him as a key player who will immediately help our team contend for more trophies. Since day one, our fans have been supportive of James and I’m sure that the return of one of their own and a player of his caliber will be a moment of celebration.”
Despite ending his time at Ibrox early, Sands expressed his excitement to return to the Big Apple to help the team in their quest to regain the MLS Cup title.
“I am excited to return to New York,” he 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. 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.
“As I return to New York, I am looking forward to playing with some of my former teammates as well as many new ones. I’m excited about the Club’s vision for the future and hope I can use my experience abroad to help the Club achieve its goals and bring home some more silverware for our incredible fans.”
Sands will have his first chance to play again for NYCFC when they take on the Chicago Fire on Saturday.