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Five Players New York City FC Can Build Around in 2024 and Beyond

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Few MLS teams fell further from 2022 to 2023 than New York City FC. The Pigeons won the MLS Cup in 2021 and followed it up in 2022 by reaching the Eastern Conference semifinals and being crowned champions of the Campeones Cup. Alas, things didn’t go as well for NYCFC in 2023. The Bronx-based club missed the playoffs and had the third-worst record in MLS. They also had early exits in both the Leagues Cup and the U.S. Open Cup for an all-around disappointing season on the field.

Needless to say, the Pigeons have some rebuilding to do heading into the 2024 season. Even the most optimistic fans may not be eager to use NY sports betting platforms to bet on NYCFC winning the MLS Cup next year. However, the club does have some good young players to build their future around. Let’s take a closer look at some of the key players that NYCFC will lean on in 2024 and beyond.

James Sands

Sands returned to NYCFC for the 2023 season after an extended loan with Rangers in Scotland. The loan spell was far from perfect for Sands, although he did get some experience playing at a higher level. More importantly, he’s only 23 and has close to 100 appearances for NYCFC, meaning he’s a veteran player who’s capable of taking on a leadership role while also being young enough to be a building block for the future. Sands undoubtedly helps to form the backbone of the NYCFC lineup, especially given his versatility to play both center back and holding midfield. It was in the latter role that Sands performed admirably for the U.S. National Team this past summer during the Gold Cup. Unless Sands has an offer he can’t turn down from a European club, he figures to be back with NYCFC in 2024 and continue to be a key player for the Pigeons.

Santiago Rodriguez

After spending a season and a half on loan with NYCFC, helping the Pigeons to great achievements in 2021 and 2022, Rodriguez finally became a permanent member of the club in 2023. The Uruguayan-born attacking midfielder signed a four-year deal to return to the Bronx as a Designated Player rather than a loanee. He failed to disappoint, scoring five goalswhile leading the Pigeons with eight assists. Rodriguez proved to be both a goal-scorer and a playmaker on a team that ranked near the bottom of MLS in goals scored in 2023. On the other hand, it’s fair to question whether Rodriguez lived up to the hype and responsibility of being a DP. However, he’ll only be 24 at the start of the 2024 campaign, so it’s reasonable to think that the best is yet to come from Rodriguez.

Andres Jasson

As a homegrown player who will only be 22 when the 2024 season begins, Jasson is a huge part of NYCFC’s future. Despite making his pro debut in late 2020, Jasson wasn’t necessarily an integral part of the club’s triumphs in 2021 and 2022. However, the young player who’s known for his attacking prowess was able to show that he could play in other roles when called upon and make defensive contributions if that’s what NYCFC needed from him. Jasson was finally able to start showcasing his skills on the attack during the 2023 season. He’s a player who looks poised to have a breakout season in 2023, making Jasson a key part of NYCFC’s future plans.


Keaton Parks

After testing himself in Europe early in his career at Portuguese club Benfica, Parks has found a permanent home with NYCFC. At times, health issues have sidelined Parks and kept him from fulfilling his potential. But he became a regular in the NYCFC midfield during the 2023 season and looks poised to hold onto that spot next season. The 6’3’’ midfielder brings size and a physical presence to the Pigeons while also having the ball skills to jumpstart the attack at times. At 26, Parks still has a lot of good years ahead of him and should be entering the prime of his career. If he can continue to stay healthy in 2024, Parks figures to be an important part of NYCFC getting back on track.

Mitja Ilenic

It’s rare for a teenager to step into MLS and become an immediate contributor, but that’s exactly what Ilenic did in 2023. The Slovenian made 22 appearances, including 13 starts for the Pigeons, appearing to stake his claim as the club’s right back of the future. Keep in mind that he played the whole season as an 18-year-old living abroad for the first time. Ilenic was also competing as a full international with Slovenia when he was barely 17, so he possesses a maturity that is beyond his years. Whether he can handle himself defensively and ultimately become among the best right backs in MLS is still up in the air. But Ilenic has the tools to help the NYCFC attack as a right back and should have a bright future ahead with the Sky Blues.