New York City FC Friday announced that defender Klevis Haxhari has signed a contract with MLS NEXT Pro team, NYCFC II.

He is the first player to sign a professional contract with NYCFC II from the Academy.

After participating in the 2022 preseason with the first team, Haxhari made his debut in MLS NEXT Pro and played in seven matches. The 17-year-old Bronx, N.Y. native, also represented the Albanian Under-19 national team during the UEFA U-19 Championship qualifiers in September. Prior to joining the NYCFC Academy, Haxhari had impressed while playing with the New York Soccer Club during MLS NEXT Pro competition.

“I am thrilled to have signed my first professional contract and continue my development here at NYCFC,” Haxhari said in a statement. “I want to thank everyone at the club and my teammates for believing in me and helping me get to where I am now. I know the work goes on and appreciate this opportunity to carry on my footballing journey here at NYCFC. I will work hard to develop and improve each day, and I look forward to the start of next season and hope to bring home some silverware alongside my teammates.”

Added sporting director David Lee: “We are delighted that Klevis has decided to begin his professional career with the club and sign with NYCFC II. Since joining the Academy, we have seen his rapid development and our focus will be providing him the opportunity both in training and games to continue that trajectory so we can maximize his potential. He has developed both on-and-off the field and we are looking forward to seeing his continued growth.”