A teenage American centre-back on loan at Bayern Munich from partner club FC Dallas? If that sounds like déjà vu it's because Chris Richards trod the very same path two years ago, with 17-year-old Justin Che now hoping to follow in his footsteps at the record German champions.
Club: Bayern Munich (on loan from Dallas)
Position: Centre-back, right-back
Country: USA (one cap for U16s)
He may still be just 17, but Che already stands at 6'1" and weighs in at 165 pounds. The right-footer, who hails from Richardson, Texas, joined the Dallas academy in 2009 at the age of six, and quickly progressed through ranks, scoring 18 goals in 84 appearances at youth level. He became the seventh-youngest player in the club's history to sign a professional contract when he did so in October 2020, agreeing a three-year deal.
Although primarily a centre-back, Che can also play at right-back, and he made his professional debut for North Texas Soccer Club - Dallas' feeder team - on 25 July 2020. He started all 16 games for North Texas last season, providing one assist. Che was invited to several US youth training camps and was part of the U16 side coached by Landon Donovan that won the UEFA Development Tournament in the Czech Republic in September 2019, beating Hungary 1-0.
In January 2021 he joined five other Dallas academy players, Edwin Cerrillo (20), Ricardo Pepi (18), Dante Sealy (17), Brandon Servania (21) and Thomas Roberts (19), on a three-week trial training period at Bayern’s Campus Academy in Munich. Che, who also holds a German passport, impressed the youth coaches to such an extent that he was awarded a five-month loan spell at Bayern until the end of the 2020/21 season. The teenager's magical start to 2021 continued in May when he received his first senior USMNT call-up for a friendly against Switzerland later that month.
Watch: Bayern's Dallas connection
Plays a bit like: Jerome Boateng
Quick and strong with an almost languid stride, Che is as comfortable in possession as he is at taking it from the opposition. Ever eager to play the ball forward to a teammate and with an excellent reading of the game, there is more than a passing resemblance with his fellow defender in the Bayern first team.
Did you know?
Che was included in the 2020 USL League One All-League Team, a Best XI voted for by members of the clubs’ staff and executives. Aged just 16 at the time, he started all 16 of North Texas' fixtures and led the team in minutes played (1,427), clearances (39), blocks (10), duels (148), duels won (73), aerial duels (65), aerial duels won (34) and total passes (848).
What they're saying
"Justin is a young centre-back with a lot of potential, and he demonstrated that recently in training. We're planning for him to join our U19 squad initially, but he'll also get the chance to show what he can do in the reserve side. We're very excited to see how he'll develop with us over the coming months." - Bayern Campus director Jochen Sauer
"When Dallas made the affiliation with Bayern, everyone in our academy got their heads up and thought, 'this is a big opportunity. If we play well this could be the next step and go to Bayern. If we go to Bayern and play well, then who knows what the future holds.' I want to represent the club but I also want to accomplish a statement for myself." - Che ahead of his three-week training trial at Bayern in January