FRISCO - Ricardo Pepi is taking two nations by storm.
This season, the forward has appeared in eight games for the FCD U-17 Academy team, but has already found the net 19 times - the most of any player in the country at the U-19 or U-17 level. It's no surprise he's being courted at the national team level - both by the U.S. and Mexico.
The El Paso-native appeared during the first camp for the U.S. U-16 Boys' National Team back in January, but just two months later, was called to U-16 Mexican National Team camp by head coach Mario Arteaga.
He would be called up by the U.S. U-16s in September, and in October made his roster with the U-17 player pool for the U.S. He was the youngest player called in and the only player born in 2003 - a feat he's maintaining at the 2018 Nike Friendlies this week, where he'll be wearing the red, white and blue.
Pepi, born in El Paso, Texas, has dual nationality by virtue of his parents, which is why he gets to decide who to represent in the future. It's a tale that is becoming more and more frequent between the two nations and puts the 16-year-old in the same shoes as FC Dallas goalkeeper Jesse Gonzalez, who made a one-time switch from Mexico to represent the U.S. last year.
“Whenever I am seen by both nationalities, it means that I am working hard and it really motivates me to work even harder because it shows me that I am doing well," Pepi said. “Mexico was my first look and that is why I had the idea of going with them first, then I had the U.S. call-up and it allowed me to think more about my choices.
"My parents don’t push me either way. I just want to learn as much as possible with both teams.”
“The FC Dallas Academy prepares me even more, so I just keep working hard and doing what I have to do,” said Pepi. “I’ve worked on moving without the ball, on finishing, getting on the center backs back. I’ve worked on communicating with my team. Working on those things have helped me in getting into the national teams.”
Pepi can still play across both sides of the Rio Grande because of his age, but will eventually have to make a decision between the two at the senior level if he continues to work his way up the national team ladder.