USA head coach Gregg Berhalter believes it won't be long until he's calling up young Bayern Munich defender Chris Richards to represent the Stars and Stripes at senior international level.
Berhalter knows the German football landscape well, having captained Energie Cottbus and 1860 Munich as a player in the 2000s, and completed his coaching licence at the renowned Hennes-Weisweiler Academy in Cologne in early 2013.
Gemany-based Americans Tyler Adams (RB Leipzig), Weston McKennie (Schalke, on loan at Juventus), Alfredo Morales (Fortuna Düsseldorf) and Josh Sargent (Werder Bremen) have all played under the 47-year-old since he took the reins in December 2018, and Borussia Dortmund's 17-year-old wunderkind Gio Reyna is already on his radar.
Despite only playing once in the Bundesliga to date, so, too, is Richards.
“Of course I'm keeping an eye on him; Chris is one of our central defenders of the future," Berhalter told SportBild of the former FC Dallas youth player.
“I'm very happy with his development, and I think the cooperation and the regular communication between us as an American association and FC Bayern is outstanding. We are trying to develop a great player from a great talent together.
"Bayern has a plan with Chris, he has optimal conditions in Munich, and he's playing competitively. He will further improve his already strong level in the new season."
Richards has been in Munich since 2018 after impressing on a 10-day trial that summer, and after initially forming part of the club’s U19s, he was promoted to the reserve team at the start of the 2019/20 season.
Richards was a regular in the side, which won Germany's Third Division, scoring four goals and recording six clean sheets in his 30 appearances. The 20-year-old earned a spot in the senior squad for the title-clinching win over Bremen, and made his Bundesliga debut as an 84th-minute substitute in the record champions' ensuing victory against Freiburg on the penultimate weekend of campaign.
Playing regular first-team football - at senior club, followed by international level - is his next objective.
"I think it's time for me to start getting my shot at showing people what I have, and hopefully one day becoming a Bayern legend," Richards told the Underdog Soccer Podcast towards the end of 2019/20.
"For the national team I want to be part of the team that helps in qualifying. I definitely want to be a part of that team
"I'm getting to a point in my career where peaking into the USMNT is something I can accomplish and something I wish to accomplish. I know 2026 is where I want to be a main player for the team, but hopefully 2022 is something I can strive for and be a part of."
Watch: Chris Richards on his Bayern Munich dream
Richards, who has won over 20 US caps at U20 and 23 level, will be back in action on 19 September when Bayern II begin their 3. Liga title defence at home to newly promoted Türkgücü München.
The reserves are ineligible for promotion to Bundesliga 2 because the club is already represented in the top two divisions.
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