Before Chris Richards was plying his trade as a defender for one of the best clubs in the world at Bayern Munich, he was an MLS academy kid trying to break into the professional ranks with FC Dallas.
Still just 20 years old, Richards seems to have worked his way into the first-team fold, making his first career start for the German giants in Bundesliga play in their match against Hertha BSC on Oct. 4, and even assisting on a goal for superstar teammate Robert Lewandowski in a 4-3 victory.
It's been quite the upward trajectory since his days in Frisco, and speaking in an interview released by World Football Index on Monday, Richards said he's hoping that other young players can look at his path and see that it's possible to use the MLS development system as a launch point to the world's biggest stage.
“I think that us guys have a big effect on the potential academy kids making that jump to Europe [from MLS],” Richards said. “I think they’re seeing that it’s very possible for us [Americans and Canadians] to do it and we have Americans at so many clubs around Europe that I think wherever they decide to go, they will be close enough to have an American there to comfort them or mentor them.”
Should more and more players follow that blueprint, Richards said it's a trend that is of mutual benefit to both the player and the league, adding that he sees his experience at FC Dallas as crucial in giving him a platform to develop the skills and mindset needed to thrive overseas.
“I think that could help improve MLS as well because they’re gaining revenue from these younger guys and then bigger clubs start looking to the US as a big talent pool. In my case, FC Dallas got compensation for me," he said. "So I think there’s a big possibility that one day in the future, MLS could become a very big and respected league with the money they’re receiving from young academy kids making the jump.
“[FC Dallas] was my first experience with a pro club and all of the kids in the academy had a pro mindset because they grew up seeing kids from the U-17 and U-19 academy teams signing professional deals. So it definitely taught me that professional mindset.”