New York City FC announced Wednesday the signing of their first-ever Homegrown Player, 16-year-old defender James Sands.

“This is a big dream come true for me ever since I was a little kid playing in my backyard to now,” Sands said in a statement released by the club. “Especially when you look at how, in just a few short years, NYCFC has grown — to be the first Homegrown Player is really special for me.”

Homegrown players are youth players signed directly to the first team roster from an MLS club’s own development academy.

“He fully deserves this contract,” NYCFC head coach Patrick Vieira said. “He’s a young talent and now we have to help him to develop that talent.”

Sands helped lead the U.S. Boys National Team to a runners-up finish in the CONCACAF U17 Championships, falling to Mexico in the final on penalties.

His contract officially begins on July 1 and he will wear the No. 16 shirt.