FRISCO, Texas — FC Dallas forward Ricardo Pepi has soaked up just about everything thrown at him during the 2019 season.
Pepi’s 2019 has been immersed in the theme of making history. He was the first signing in North Texas SC history, he scored the club’s first goal, and recorded the first hat trick during the first game of the season on March 30. It’s almost poetic how his goals alone helped lead North Texas to its first win of the inaugural USL League One season.
Fast forward just three months, and on June 21, 2019, Pepi signed a Homegrown contract with FC Dallas. He’s the club’s MLS-leading 26th Homegrown player, the fourth-youngest in FC Dallas history, and he was the first player to sign with the first team after moving through the Academy and USL League One pipeline.
He did it all at just 16-years-old.
In nearly two weeks, Pepi will be playing in the biggest tournament he’s ever been in when he travels with the U.S. U-17 Men’s National Team for the World Cup in Brazil.
Pepi couldn’t be in better form heading into this tournament. He rejoined North Texas SC for the club’s USL League One semifinal match on October 12, and he scored both of the team’s goals to lead them to a Championship berth.
He won’t be there for the Championship match, but the U-17 World Cup will do wonders for his development on and off the pitch.
“I’m very excited to go and take this opportunity,” Pepi said. “I’m motivated, and I think this is a good opportunity for me, so I just need to take advantage of it.”
Pepi has been able to break boundaries this season as he’s jumped from USL League One to MLS in the middle of the season, but he isn’t satisfied. Continuing his development and learning from veterans and coaches are what keeps him motivated to keep improving every day in training. Playing at the U-17 World Cup is just the first step in his international journey.
“It is [the biggest tournament I’ve played in],” Pepi said. “Profe Luchi told me to be confident, and Mikey [Barrios] told me to always believe in myself and do what I know, which is just playing my game.”
He’s keeping a level head. He knows he’s not at the top yet — his career is only beginning. The relationship between USL League One and MLS has been crucial for Pepi to get the opportunities he needs to keep growing as a player. Although he can continue playing for North Texas SC, he still trains every day with the first team in FC Dallas.
“I think being around the first team has helped me grow a lot as a player and as a person," Pepi said. "I think just working hard and seeing myself grow soccer-wise is preparing me a lot for this opportunity.”
The U.S. Men's National Team will be in Group D at the World Cup, and the team is joined by Senegal, Japan and the Netherlands.
“I think in games like USL and minutes with the first team have prepared me for this moment,” Pepi said. “It’s just up to me to take advantage and do whatever I want to do with it.”