FRISCO, Texas – As the Ricardo Pepi hype train gathers pace, so do the questions about the 18-year-old’s international future.
Pepi is a dual national. Born in El Paso, Texas to Mexican parents, Pepi has represented both the U.S. and Mexico at various youth levels. Most recently, he was called up to a U-23 USMNT camp in March, alongside fellow FCD Homegrowns Jesús Ferreira and Tanner Tessmann.
“I feel like both the U.S. and Mexico have great programs,” Pepi told FCDallas.com. “This can go either way. But I feel like that decision has yet to be made. Whenever that time comes, I feel like that decision will be made. Right now, I’m just really focused on FC Dallas and giving my all for the team. If I’m doing it at club level, then the time will come for me internationally.”
But Pepi’s stock has risen significantly since his March call-up. The FC Dallas forward was recently named to the MLS All-Star game after scoring eight goals in just 10 starts, making him the highest-scoring American in the league. That kind of production – especially at his age – was always going to bring his international future to the fore.
Pepi has spoken with both USMNT head coach Gregg Berhalter and members of the Mexican Football Federation within the last 30 days. During the Gold Cup, both El Tri and the USMNT trained at Toyota Soccer Center in Frisco, giving both sides an excellent chance to pitch their programs to Pepi in person.
“We just talked about how I’m doing right, what my future would be in the National Team,” Pepi said of his conversation with Berhalter, which happened to be on the eve of his record-breaking hat trick against the LA Galaxy. “I asked him a couple questions about what my role would be play in the team and got to know each other a little bit because that was the first time I’d got to meet him.
“I’ve had a conversation with them (Mexico) too. They just talked to me about the same things, the plans I have with the Mexican National Team, what they want me to be. And basically, just that I have a great chance and if I can keep doing things well I can go to the World Cup with them.”
A place in the World Cup is the ultimate recruiting tool. And when the 2026 edition comes to North America, Pepi wants to be there: “It would be great, I’d be at home. That’s one of my goals for now. I feel like that would be a possible goal to play in that World Cup, but I have to work hard to be able to be in it.”
If Pepi continues his current trajectory, there’s every reason to believe he’ll achieve his goal and feature in that tournament. But for which country? That depends on which one makes him feel most at home.
“I feel like right now it’s up in the air,” he said. “When I make the decision, I’m going to make that decision for the team that I feel most close to. If I feel most close to Mexico, then it would be them. If I feel more close to the U.S., it would be them. But it also has to do with how they make me feel as a player. If I feel comfortable with them, if I feel like they’re actually interested, then that affects the decision I make.”