Yet another FC Dallas academy product has made a move to a big club in Europe. Not directly this time, though.

Crystal Palace announced the acquisition of US men's national team center back Chris Richards from Bayern Munich on Wednesday. Richards originally joined the German Bundesliga giants from FC Dallas in January 2019 after signing a homegrown contract. Now, he’s moving on again and is expected to be a regular contributor for an English Premier League side, arriving on a five-year deal.

“It’s just a feeling of extreme pride,” FC Dallas technical director Andre Zanotta told MLSsoccer.com. “Every time we transfer a homegrown, the FC Dallas name is going with it.”

It’s also a feeling of an additional financial boost.

Part of Richards’ transfer to Bayern Munich from FC Dallas – before ever playing a single minute in MLS – included a 35% sell-on clause, per sources. The initial fee from Bayern was just over $1 million. The windfall from the sell-on clause will be just over $5 million, plus the potential for more in add-ons.

Richards, 22, was loaned to Bayern shortly after he signed his first professional deal with Dallas, appearing regularly with Bayern’s U-19 team. Bayern then secured a permanent transfer for the Alabama native, a shining example of the clubs' partnership.

He spent two seasons on loan with Bundesliga side TSG 1899 Hoffenheim, who reportedly tried to sign Richards permanently last summer. He made 34 appearances with the German club before (briefly) returning to Bayern this summer, appearing in 10 matches total for the Bavarian powerhouse.

Crystal Palace are managed by former New York City FC boss Patrick Vieira and finished 12th in the Premier League last season. Their key players include England international center back Marc Guehi and Ivory Coast international forward Wilfried Zaha.

“We believe very much in our players that we know for such a long time,” Zanotta said. “We know their potential and we know their first step in Europe is just the first step. … We truly believe in our players to make another jump.”

Chris Richards Hoffenheim
Chris Richards, left, has played in 35 career German Bundesliga games for Bayern and Hoffenheim. (Heiko Becker/Reuters)

Growing MLS trend

Sell-on clauses aren’t a new phenomenon in global soccer, but in recent years it has become the expectation for young players. The dividends are paying off across MLS, particularly this summer.

In addition to Richards’ move to Palace benefitting Dallas, both the Philadelphia Union and New York Red Bulls received boosts from previous transfers to Premier League side Leeds United. Brenden Aaronson joined from RB Salzburg for around $30 million, about $5 million of which was sent to Philly for their sell-on clause agreement with the Austrian side. The Red Bulls will receive up to around $8 million, pending incentives, from Tyler Adams' $24 million move from RB Leipzig to the Whites, who are managed by former MLS player and coach Jesse Marsch.

Aaronson left Philly in January 2021, while Adams left New York in January 2019.

“Sometimes we sell a player for a little less than we could, because we believe in the sell-on, that there’ll be another transfer,” Zanotta said.

This summer is likely the harbinger of a new normal. To name a few recent deals where the MLS club holds a percentage of any future transfer windfall:

  • Orlando City SC with Daryl Dike's transfer to West Bromwich Albion (English Championship)
  • FC Dallas with Ricardo Pepi's transfer to FC Augsburg (German Bundesliga)
  • D.C. United with Kevin Paredes' transfer to Wolfsburg (German Bundesliga)
  • New England Revolution with Tajon Buchanan's transfer to Club Brugge (Belgian First Division A)

FC Dallas have a diverse portfolio and history of exporting players abroad. There are opulent deals for first-team players like Bryan Reynolds (to AS Roma) and both Pepi and Carlos Gruezo (to FC Augsburg). There have also been moves for teenagers who didn’t yet break into the first team, like Richards, Justin Che (Hoffenheim) and Dante Sealy (PSV) – the latter two of whom remain out on loan. Current first-teamers like Brandon Servania and Thomas Roberts went on loan to Europe for more playing time before returning to MLS, too.

“Each player has his own pathway," Zanotta said. "We need to always work with the player, family and staff to see what the best opportunity is for them."

Chris Richards USMNT
Chris Richards, right, has six USMNT caps and is vying for a Qatar 2022 World Cup spot. (Trevor Ruszkowski-USA TODAY Sports)

Incomings for FC Dallas?

Chris Richards’ transfer, and the financial benefits therein, doesn’t significantly alter Dallas’ summer transfer window.

Dallas are working through a downturn in form over the last month or two, but remain fifth in a competitive Western Conference during their first year with former USMNT assistant coach Nico Estevez as their manager.

They had an extremely busy winter, transferring Pepi to Augsburg and handing USMNT striker Jesus Ferreira a new Young Designated Player contract. That's all while spending a club-record fee to sign rising Argentine attacker Alan Velasco and orchestrating a league-record trade to acquire USMNT winger Paul Arriola from D.C. United.

“Conversations with Nico, we’re very happy with our roster,” Zanotta said. “We haven’t suffered too many injuries – knock on wood. We’re open and alert to good opportunities to strengthen our roster. Maybe there’ll be something in the last days.”

The MLS Secondary Transfer Window closes on Aug. 4 after beginning July 7.

FC Dallas are likely to be busier in the offseason, when they can open a DP spot if they decline a contract option for DP forward Franco Jara.