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NYCFC signs Rio Hope-Gund to first-team contract

The 24-year-old defender from New York City jumps to the MLS squad after making 24 starts for NYCFC II in 2023.

Hope-Gund while playing for NYCFC II. Photo: NYCFC.

Make that four clear-cut central defenders now on the New York City FC first-team, as the club today announced the signing of Rio Hope-Gund.

Hope-Gund officially moves up from New York City's MLS NEXT Pro squad, NYCFC II, on a contract said to be through 2024 with option years possibly extending it through 2026.

The New York-native defender started 24 matches with NYCFC II during the 2023 season, following a 2022 spent in the USL Championship, where Hope-Gund made 18 starts for Loudoun United. For NYCFC II in 2023, Hope-Gund completed the second most passes on the team, 1,o96, while maintaining a pass completion percentage of 87.9%.

Rio Hope-Gund becomes the second new central defender to join the squad since the end of the 2023 season, with Serbian international Strahinja Tanasijević acquired on February 5.

Tanasijević still has not arrived and begun training with NYCFC, presumably delayed by work visa-related issues. That means the reserve options behind first-choice center backs Birk Risa and Thiago Martins have been slim for head coach Nick Cushing.

Enter Hope-Gund, who was on the club's preseason roster and featured in a number of the preparatory friendlies. He now joins the NYCFC roster as a likely MLS bench option who could still get regular game time with NYCFC II once their season begins on March 17.

Hope-Gund, from Manhattan originally, will now look to join players like Brooklyn's Justin Haak and the Bronx's Tayvon Gray as New York City natives who went on to play for the NYCFC first-team.