New York City FC Wednesday announced that midfielder James Sands has been loaned to Scottish Premiership team Rangers FC through June 30, 2023.

Rangers will have an option to permanently transfer James at the end of the loan.

The Rye, N.Y. native ended 2021 on a high after playing a key role in helping NYCFC win its first championship. Sands appeared in 30 games last season, playing 2,644 minutes.

The midfielder started in all four playoff games on the way to his first major club trophy, was named the team’s young player of the year and was selected to the 2021 MLS All-Star team.

Sands said that “2021 has been the best year of my professional career, to be able to bring the club its first championship is something that I will remember forever. It has been an amazing year and I couldn’t be prouder to have been a part of it – for a Club that I have been with for so long. I hope in some way I’ve been able to set an example and inspire other young soccer players and other players in our Academy.

“I want to thank NYCFC for everything they’ve done for me. They have always provided me with an environment to perform. This club is a family and it has been my home since I signed, I’ve grown up here. I want to thank the best fans in the world for always supporting me and having my back throughout this incredible journey. New York City has a special place in my heart and I will always be a fan and will watch the games while in Scotland.”

‘’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. 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.’’

Representing affiliate team New York Soccer Club since he was 10, Sands was selected by NYCFC at the inception of the Uder-16 Academy side and scored the winning penalty kick in the club’s first U-19 U.S. Soccer Development Academy national championship.

The 21-year-old Sands became NYCFC’s first Homegrown player in 2017. He made his first team debut three months later against the Colorado Rapids, replacing Italian international Andrea Pirlo.

Sands has played 69 matches for City, registering two assists.

He made his U.S. men’s national team debut against Haiti in the group stage of the 2021 Concacaf Gold Cup and played every minute since as the Americans recorded a 1-0 victory over Mexico in the final.

“I want to thank James for everything he has done for the club,” NYCFC sporting director David Lee said in a statement. “We’ve seen him grow up in front of our eyes since making history by becoming our first homegrown signing in 2017. He has become an integral part of our team and his quality and maturity is special for a player of his age. James’ work ethic and versatility to play several positions has been key to the team’s ability to be flexible and provide depth when needed. James is a true professional on-and-off the field, playing consistently at a high level and setting an example for all our Academy players that want to follow in his footsteps.

“We think this is a fantastic opportunity for James to develop even further while taking the next step in his career. We’ve always had fantastic dialog with James about his future and care about his progression, as we do with many of our young players. We’re proud to have been part of his development and he’s a testament to the talent we have here in New York and in our Academy. Everyone at the club wishes him the best at Rangers and we look forward to seeing him continue to develop during this loan and reach his full potential.”