The three NYCFC players who signed Homegrown contracts. (Photo courtesy of NYCFC)

NEW YORK – New York City FC Wednesday announced that forward Jonathan (JJ) Jimenez and defenders Nicholas (Nico) Benalcazar and Samuel (Kwaku) Owusu had signed MLS Homegrown contracts.

The intention is that all three will participate with NYCFC II in MLS Next Pro competition in 2022.

“We are really excited to welcome back Nico, JJ and Kwaku to the Club and sign them to Homegrown contracts,” NYCFC sporting director David Lee said in a statement. “While we intend for them to play a significant role for our newly created NYCFC II team, this gives us the flexibility for them to be available on our MLS roster as well.

“Over the years we have seen them grow and develop, and all display the professionalism both on-and-off the pitch which we believe gives them the best opportunity to continue to improve. They have already been important players for our Academy and played pivotal roles in the Development Academy National Championships.

“The addition of an MLS Next Pro team has been crucial in us being able to provide a suitable pathway and development experience for all three players with regular competitive games and we’re excited to have them back with us to continue their development. They will also be part of our pre-season for the invaluable experience of training with the first team for an extended period of time.”

Benalcazar played on NYCFC’s original Under-14 Academy team during the 2015-16 season, shortly after becoming team captain for the U-16 General adidas Cup championship team in 2017. The following spring, the Wilton, Conn. native led the U-18-19 Development Academy squad to a championship and was also part of the Spring 2019 championship despite being sidelined by injury. In 100 games with the Academy, the 5-11, 170-lb. Benalcazar started 96 games and scored nine goals while earning NYCFC 2018 Academy player of the year honors.

“I am excited for the opportunity to be a part of this new adventure,” Benalcazar said. “I enjoyed my time at the Academy and want to replicate the same success. This club has given me everything I need to succeed and take the next step of playing at this level. I look forward to paying back the belief that they have in me.”

Jimenez, who lives in Norwalk, Conn. has played for the NYCFC Academy since 2017 and was vital in the team’s back-to-back U-18-19 Development Academy championships, scoring in the 2019 final. In 2021, the 5-10, 169-lb. defender played 18 games for the University of North Carolina, tallying one goal and two assists.

“Returning to the club where I experienced such wonderful memories was a no brainer for me,” he said. “I look forward to continuing my development here and feel this is the perfect place for me to continue to grow and progress in my career. I look forward to creating more memories with this club and hoping to play a part in bringing the team success in the first season.”

The 6-2, 185-lb. Owusu was also a member of the U-16 GA Cup and U-18-19 Development Academy championship teams. The Ghanaian native joined NYCFC in the fall of 2016 and attended Riverside High School in Yonkers, N.Y.

“I am really excited for the next chapter in NYCFC history,” Owusu said. “I have been around this club for a long time, and it means a lot to me as they have always had my development and best interests at heart. I am really excited to be working with the coaching staff and the club who have always provided me with the right tools to grow as a player and as a person. I hope to continue the success of the club and maybe even add more trophies to the cabinet.”

More details about NYCFC MLS Next Pro affiliate, NYCFC II, will be released in the coming weeks.