Exciting young prospect has excelled at nearly every level of NCFC's youth-to-pro pipeline | Image Credit: Nikki Stoudt/North Carolina FC
CARY, N.C. - North Carolina FC today announced the return of 17-year-old midfielder Nico Rincon on a USL Academy contract. The transaction is pending league and federation approval.
“Nico is on a very high trajectory,” NCFC Head Coach John Bradford said. “He’s continued to move in the right direction and grow as a player, and we’re very happy he’s a part of our club. Coming back this year we expect him to be more settled in and comfortable, have more of a voice, and be more impactful in matches.”
Born in Colombia, Rincon moved to Spain at a young age. For nine years, Rincon was a part of the RCD Espanyol youth academy in Barcelona before moving to the United States in 2020, with his family relocating to New Jersey. He played high school soccer for Brick Township High School and club soccer at the Players Development Academy (PDA) in Somerset, N.J. for a year and a half.
Rincon joined NCFC after being scouted at Alianza de Futbol by Bradford in Nov. 2021. Rincon earned MVP honors at the event.
“When we went to USL League One, we changed our scouting identity and where we were going to find players. People thought I was crazy, but I was going to youth national team camps for the U-16’s, U-17’s and youth talent showcases trying to find top players. I went up to New York and watched Nico, and immediately knew he would fit our player development model,” said Bradford.
Rincon and his family spent a lot of time deciding his future after the showcases, and together came to the decision to join NCFC. He said the opportunity to train and play professionally while still getting regular minutes with the Academy and youth teams was the driving force in their choice.
“My family and I agreed that NCFC was the best option for me to start my professional career. It is a club that takes great care of its young players with a great environment. It was a perfect fit,” said Rincon.
While Rincon made the move to North Carolina, his family stayed in New Jersey. Rincon spent the 2022 season with the family of Matteo Navas, a member of NCFC Youth. Navas’ family is Colombian, which Rincon credited with helping him settle into the club and area so quickly.
“I appreciate the Navas family and thank them a lot,” Rincon said. “They are people with big hearts who are very important to me and are always there for me when I need it.”
In his first season with the club, Rincon showed a lot of promise while playing with the Academy, U-23 and U-19 teams, earning opportunities with the first team along the way. He made 11 appearances in league play, making his professional debut against Chattanooga Red Wolves SC on April 10. He provided two assists and scored one goal in his 413 minutes across the 2022 season.
His performance against Central Valley Fuego FC on September 28 saw the midfielder named USL League One Player of the Week. Along with assisting Garrett McLaughlin’s opening goal, Rincon scored the match-winner, curling in a first-time shot off a Luis Arriaga cross.
“It has been a dream come true,” Rincon said. “Since I was a kid, I always had the goal to become a professional soccer player and I thank my family and the people at the club for helping me achieve it.”
Training day in and day out with professionals saw Rincon not only improve his ability, but also his work ethic. Rincon said the most important part of adjusting to playing with the first team was the intensity in training and going above and beyond every day. Rincon is not shy about his room to improve and has been working tirelessly to take a jump as a player.
“I would like to have more influence in the game. In League One it is a lot harder to impact the match and I always want to make an impact. At the end of the season, I felt I was getting there and being more influential,” Rincon said.
Towards the latter stages of the 2022 season, Rincon embedded himself in the first team and was becoming a regular starter. Rincon started five of NCFC’s final six matches of the season, including his aforementioned Player of the Week performance against Fuego FC.