In 2020, FC Dallas defender Justin Che was still trying to figure things out as a young professional player, earning reps with USL affiliate North Texas SC and making the most of every opportunity on the field. Fast forward almost one year later and Che has skyrocketed into a rising talent on both the club and international scale.
Che heads into his first U.S. Men’s National Team camp off the back of an impressive loan stint with Bundesliga giants Bayern Munich. After earning an opportunity in Germany with Bayern’s Under-23 team, Che has regularly accrued minutes in the 3. Liga and has been rewarded with involvement in the USMNT senior camp in Switzerland.
The 17-year-old remains linked with a possible permanent move to Bayern Munich this summer and is grateful for the chances he has been given so early in his career.
“The last few months have been a blessing for me,” Che said in a club interview with FC Dallas. “It’s been a time when I can really push my football career forward. I knew the sacrifices I would need to make starting from a young age.
“Seeing my dad play professionally and him telling me all the stories and what he had to go through, moving away from his family. So, I was up to the challenge from a young age. I never expected to move this fast just at 17. But life has its own course and you just have to push with it.”
Che was not only able to play in eight matches in the 3. Liga this year, but he was also able to train alongside some of Europe’s top talents in Robert Lewandowski, Thomas Muller, Leroy Sane, and others. Che finished his club campaign with 584 minutes of playing time for Bayern II, playing the full 90 in six of his eight appearances and even going head-to-head with former USMNT forward Terrence Boyd in his season finale.
Now as he prepares for a possible USMNT debut against Switzerland on May 30th in St. Gallen, Che has been able to soak in all of his exciting moments from his first European spell.
“It’s definitely been something I’ve really enjoyed,” Che said. “The atmosphere has been different. The coaches are very different here. I’ve had the blessing to learn from top players, top ex pros and really add some things they’ve taught me into my game. I’ve gotten the chance to play in the first team with the best players in the world and really look and see how they train firsthand. For me, all of this is a learning experience so that I could be the best I could potentially be one day.”
“It was definitely something, having watched them play in the World Cup, play in the Champions League and all this, looking up to them as a little kid and thinking ‘this is where I want to be one day’. So, for me to have that exposure at such an early age is something I’ll always be grateful for.”
Che is one of three newcomers in the current USMNT camp in Europe, joining Schalke forward Matthew Hoppe and Real Salt Lake goalkeeper David Ochoa. With many of the USMNT starters being saved for the June Concacaf Nations League Final Four, Che could get an opportunity against the 13th-ranked Swiss, following in the footsteps of many other young players who have earned their debuts under Gregg Berhalter.
After continuing to improve at a rapid rate with Bayern II, Che will be hoping to do the same on the international level, especially with plenty of major competitions and chances available down the road.
“Looking back, even a year ago, I wouldn’t think I would be with the senior men’s national team,” Che said. “Back then, even with my own age [group], the U-16/U-17 national team, I wasn’t one of the first choices or top picks. I wasn’t brought to every camp. I don’t think I was seen as a top prospect.
“So, for me, a year later, to really put in the work, I honestly think I deserve it,” Che said. “I’ve always believed in myself, so to be able to put in the work and to hear from one of the best coaches in Gregg Berhalter, it’s something I’ll always be grateful for.”