AUSTIN (KXAN) — The pipeline began to run Monday for Austin FC’s academy and its new development team Austin FC II.

Defender Anthony De Anda, 17, is the first academy player to sign with Austin FC II, Verde’s professional development team that begins play in MLS NEXT Pro this season. De Anda signed a two-year contract through 2024 with club options for two additional years.

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Even as a defender, De Anda has shown a knack for scoring goals in big moments for the U-17 Austin FC academy team. He put two in the net during an MLS NEXT playoff game against New York City FC and he played in the league’s all-star game last summer. De Anda has also spent time with the U-19 US Men’s Youth National Team, training with them in 2022.

“I’m thrilled to sign with Austin FC II and to have the chance to compete at a professional level this season,” he said in a press release. “I want to thank my Austin FC Academy teammates and the staff for all of their help in my journey so far.”

The move underscores how important it is for Austin FC to have a developmental team as a bridge to the academy-level players.

“This move shows the tremendous potential of having a second team which completes a full development pathway from our youth levels to our first team,” said Sean Rubio, Austin FC director of player personnel. “Anthony has been consistently impressive with the Austin FC Academy, and we’re confident he’s ready to make the step up to the MLS NEXT Pro level.”

So far, Austin FC II has signed five players. The 2023 schedules for MLS Next Pro haven’t been released, and Austin FC II is one of seven expansion teams who will enter the league this season.