Chris Richards, the 18-year-old FC Dallas center back currently on a six-month loan to Bayern Munich, flew from Germany to Bradenton, Fla., on Monday to join the U.S. Under-20 national team as it competes in the Concacaf Championship and tries to qualify for the 2019 U-20 World Cup. And if things turn out the way the 6’2” Richards is hoping, he’ll continue flying west across the Atlantic to join national team camps in 2019. Which is another way of saying he’d love to see his loan extended with Bayern.
“I’m not knocking MLS at all, but everyone’s dream is to play on the biggest stage possible,” Richards told SI.com in a recent interview from Germany. “Hopefully I can stay here, and Bayern can give me a professional contract. And if not, I’ll go back to Dallas and keep working through the ranks.”
Richards made a splash with Bayern during last summer’s International Champions Cup, when he started and played all 90 minutes against Manchester City. At one point, Bayern chairman Karl-Heinz Rummenigge was asked about Jérôme Boateng’s future with the club and mentioned five names to show that FCB had center back depth. One of those names was that of Richards.
Richards has spent most of his time since then with Bayern’s Under-19 team. But he did say that he has trained “around 10 times” with Bayern’s first team. David Alaba, the center back he started alongside that night against Man City—who at first called Richards “Texas” until he learned his name—has become a mentor for him on and off the field.
“Alaba has been really good for me,” Richards says. “He kind of took me under his wing, whether it was during training or after training or before training. He showed me around the first-team campus, and he speaks really good English, so he was helping me out. On the preseason tour, he was giving me pointers on what I should do in certain aspects of the game at different points. He has been amazing for me.”
Richards went on loan to Bayern in the first place because MLS rules prevented him from playing for Dallas’s senior team in 2018, since he had only been with Dallas’s academy for half a year when he signed with the club. (Bayern and Dallas have a partnership.) Richards has been living with around 40 other young players, ranging in age from 14 to 19, at the new Bayern campus that the club built just outside Munich. He works with a German language tutor almost every weekday and feels like his progression in the language has gone well.
One of the toughest things initially for Richards at Bayern was to resist gaping at the starpower around him when he plays with the first team.
“It’s a crazy feeling,” he says. “You grow up watching these players in Champions League, and now I’m training with them. It’s something that’s even hard to put it into words. You just want to stargaze when you’re out there on the field, but you actually have to play with them and hold your own. It was a weird transition at first, but it’s something I could only dream about.”
Richards says he’s fired up to join the U.S. Under-20 team this week—and he can’t wait for the chance at some point to join the U.S. senior team.
“I’m hoping sooner or later I’ll get that call,” he says, “and I’d be ecstatic.”