Reporting: Garrett Melcer

The Rise of Ricardo Pepi

1.3 Pepi

FRISCO, Texas – El Trén has officially left the station.

FC Dallas Homegrown Ricardo Pepi completed his record-breaking move to Bundesliga side FC Augsburg, ending his nearly 7-year career with FC Dallas. In that time, he transformed from a kid with a dream to a senior international with the world at his feet.

Still just 18, Pepi already has his fair share of records and accolades: MLS Young Player of the Year, MLS All-Star, youngest hat trick scorer in MLS history, most goals by a teenager over a single MLS campaign, second youngest U.S. player to score in a World Cup get the picture. But, closer to home, he was also the first player to complete FC Dallas’ player development pathway.

Pepi moved to Frisco as a 13-year-old to join the FCD Academy after impressing with its El Paso affiliate. Three years and many goals later, he was unveiled as North Texas SC’s first-ever player. He’d go on to become the club’s first goal-scorer with a hat trick in his professional debut. Midway through 2019, FC Dallas made then 16-year-old Pepi its 26th Homegrown player.

“I remember moving, leaving my family and joining the Academy,” Pepi said from his new home in Bavaria. “I felt the support from the first moment I stepped foot in the stadium. I felt the support from all the staff and all the fans. While I was there, away from my family, I felt like I had a second family with you guys. You guys were always there through the ups and the downs. Thank you for everything, it means a lot, and I hope you guys support me in the future.”

Pepi continually stepped up in the biggest moments during his two and a half years as an FC Dallas player. In his first playoff game, he scored the game-tying goal in stoppage time as Dallas advanced past the Portland Timbers in 2020. But it was 2021 where Pepi’s rise became truly meteoric.

After beginning the year as a backup, Pepi captured the imagination of American soccer fans over the summer by scoring 10 goals over a 15-game span. His form earned him an MLS All-Star appearance where he, again, stepped up and scored the game-winning penalty against the best of Liga MX.

Pepi was now ready for the international stage.

Pepi made his USMNT debut with the U.S. trailing 1-0 to Honduras in its third World Cup qualifier. Over the next 45 minutes, Pepi inspired a 4-goal comeback where he registered the game-winner and two assists. Less than a month afterwards, Pepi scored both goals in the U.S.’s 2-0 win over Jamaica in Austin. At just 18 years old, Pepi had truly arrived.

With the record-breaking transfer now complete, Pepi joins fellow former FC Dallas Homegrowns plying their trade in Europe: Bryan Reynolds (Roma), Tanner Tessmann (Venezia), Chris Richards (Hoffenheim), Reggie Cannon (Boavista) Dante Sealy (PSV) and Thomas Roberts (SK Austria Klagenfurt). The Bundesliga is no doubt another step up, but that’s exactly what Pepi has always relished.

“I’ve been through every step of FC Dallas,” Pepi told last July. “I’ve been in the Academy, second team and my dream has always been to become a professional soccer player and I’ve worked hard for it. I’ve put my effort and my time into it. If you really want something, it’s going to happen.”

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