On Tuesday the U.S. men’s national team released an exciting roster for next week’s friendly against Wales in London. As a result of factors like COVID-19 and MLS season currently taking place, the squad consists of 23 players based in European clubs and one from Brazil (Johnny Cardoso), providing an opportunity for many of American soccer’s bright young talents to gain international experience. One of the big names to get his first call up was Alabama native Chris Richards of Bayern Munich.

While minutes can be limited for a young player like Richards at a club like Bayern, the Bavarians and specifically coach Hansi Flick wanted him to stay to continue his development despite numerous clubs trying to acquire him via loan during the summer. And it’s worked out. The strong, tall and sturdy center-back has made three appearances for the club, been included in the UEFA Super Cup squad and made an appearance in the German Super Cup, even recording an assist this season.

He hasn’t looked inexperienced, has timed most of his tackles well and has even impressed with his ability in attack, specifically his crosses when playing right back. With the United States quite weak at the center-back position with only really John Brooks showing consistency, Richards has proven the ability to win playing time amidst stiff competition and has the potential to be a starter for manager Gregg Berhalter before long. 

Richards spoke to CBS Sports exclusively on Tuesday after being included Berhalter’s list for the first time in his young career. 

“When I got the call that I was invited to camp, I was ecstatic. It’s something I worked my whole life for,” Richards said. 

Richards expected the call, considering his rise with Bayern Munich, and wants to make his mark and become a key part of next year’s new World Cup qualifying cycle. But first thing’s first — trying to make his first appearance next week against Wales in Swansea.

He’s entering the match knowing nothing is for certain but eager to prove his worth, just like he’s done at Bayern Munich.

“My involvement with this upcoming camp, I think if I play like I usually play and train how I usually do, I’ll get my shot,” Richards said.

A Brooks-Richards center-back pairing has the potential to be the linchpin of the team’s defensive backline for years to come. The combination of the experience of the 27-year-old Brooks with the promise of Richards at only 20 years old could provide the chemistry the team has been missing.

“There is no guarantees, but I think I have a really good chance of playing once I get there,” Richards said.

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