NYCFC youngster James Sands believes the growing trend of MLS clubs developing and selling young talent to Europe is a ‘positive step’ in the league’s growth.
Though he remains with NYCFC at the moment, Sands was the club’s first ever homegrown player and has often been linked with a move across the Atlantic. That looks set to continue after the 21-year-old’s impressive showings at this summer’s Gold Cup, where he played in all six of the USMNT’s games as Gregg Berhalter’s young side lifted the trophy, beating Mexico in the final.
This summer alone, the likes of Tanner Tessmann, Gianluca Busio and Sam Vines have moved to Europe, with others such as Cole Bassett tipped to follow soon. And Sands believes MLS’ shift in focus toward giving young players a chance to prove themselves to the world – rather than being a retirement home for veteran stars – has been a real positive, both financially and on the field.
“It’s been a real positive step that MLS has taken in the past couple of years, I think a lot of the teams have seen not only is it a good way to make money by selling their academy players on to bigger teams, but they’re also producing players that can help the first team,” Sands told American Soccer Now.
“I know that wasn’t always the case. It brings more eyes to the league, and it makes moving overseas much easier because other Americans have come from this league and done that. It makes the pathway a little bit easier. That’s helpful for a lot of guys who have big aspirations in some of the top European leagues.”
What Sands says rings true with San Jose Earthquakes midfielder Jackson Yueill’s assesment of the situation.
“I think there’s a lot of young American players in the homegrown system who are being recognized more and I think that trend of selling will continue,” he told 90min in an exclusive interview recently. “There are a lot of talented American players that get brought up through MLS.”
Though he does have his eyes on Europe, Sands’ immediate focus is putting in positive performances for NYCFC, which could ultimately lead to more caps for the national team.
Though he played in all six of the US’ Gold Cup games, and performed to a high standard, that did come as a surprise given he went into the tournament as an uncapped player.
But now he has broken down that barrier, Sands is confident this is just the start of his international career, backing himself to play a big role for Berhalter again in the future.
“Because it was my first run with the national team, I wasn’t completely sure what to expect going into camp, but then I found my feet pretty quickly,” Sands added. “How we work in New York is pretty similar to how Gregg and his staff work.
“All the games were like good learning experiences. I thought the group games went well. The knockout games were kind of a different animal…Obviously, I understand that a lot of the top guys weren’t there but I will always back myself. I really have a role to play for that team in the future.”