FRISCO - Ricardo Pepi is the first signing in North Texas Soccer Club history. Who is the 15-year-old? Here are five things you should know.
In just eight games this season with the FCD U-17s, Pepi has found the back of the net 19 times - more than any other player in the country at the U-17 or U-19 level. His goals per game average (2.375) is nearly a full point higher than the next player at the U-17 level (1.5).
BEYOND HIS YEARS
When the forward joined the Dallas Academy in 2016, he split time between his natural U-13 age group and playing up with the U-14s, where he scored 12 goals in 13 games. Last year, Pepi jumped up two age groups with the U-16s, scoring five goals in 14 games. He’s played up two levels again through the first half of the current Academy season and will finish the year playing with the U-19s until the USL League One season starts.
Pepi, having just turned 15 in September, was the youngest player on the U.S. U-17 National Team at the 2018 Nike Friendlies, appearing in all three games and scoring the lone goal in a 1-0 win over Turkey in the team’s second match.
Holding eligibility for both the U.S. and Mexican National Teams, the forward has appeared at the youth level for both countries. Pepi was called to U.S. U-16 camp in January and then Mexico U-16 camp two months later. He was called again by the U.S. U-16s in September and then the U-17s in October before his November call-up.
“Whenever I am seen by both nationals, 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 last month. “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.”
Pepi is the third player signed to a pro contract by FCD from its affiliate in El Paso, joining Alex Zendejas and Aaron Guillen with the distinction.
Just before his 13th birthday, the forward moved to the FC Dallas Academy system, living with a host family in the area for his first season before his entire family moved from El Paso to Frisco a year later.
FORGING A NEW PATH
Since FC Dallas officially unveiled its USL League One franchise in November, Pepi is the first Academy product to sign with the new club. As North Texas SC sets out to bridge the gap between the Academy and the First Team, many other promising young talents hope to follow in his footsteps.
The 15-year-old is the 26th player signed by the FC Dallas organization, just the third to a non-Homegrown contract. Goalkeeper Carlos Avilez was signed to a USL deal in May 2017 through then-affiliate OKC Energy FC, while goalkeeper Eduardo ‘Pollo’ Cortes was signed to an MLS contract in September 2017, but lost his Homegrown-eligibility when he went unselected in the 2016 MLS SuperDraft following his senior season of college soccer.