EL PASO, TEXAS (KTSM) – What were you doing at age 17? Whatever it was, it’s doubtful you were playing professional soccer.
But El Paso native Ricardo Pepi is; he left the Sun City at age 15 to chase his dreams with FC Dallas in MLS. After scoring 11 goals in 2019 for North Texas SC in USL League 1, Pepi has been a mainstay in MLS this season, but he’s just getting started.
He’s barely old enough to drive, and Pepi should be enjoying his senior year of high school. Instead, he’s on the verge of taking MLS by storm.
“Playing with these professional players every day it makes me forget I’m this young,” Pepi said.
Pepi left El Paso at the age of 15 to chase his lofty soccer dreams. He’s still not old enough to buy a lottery ticket, but he’s already playing a big role for FC Dallas, seeing action in 10 matches this season, with his first two MLS goals.
“I like to think of myself as someone who’s there to take a spot, to compete and help the team win,” said Pepi.
When most kids his age are worrying about prom and college applications, Pepi is trying to compete at the highest level of U.S. soccer. He had to move away from home by himself at first, living with a host family his first year in the Metroplex. Although his family has since joined him in Dallas, he had to mature on his own.
“You have to sacrifice things for what you want,” he said. “I sacrificed my family and my friends over there in El Paso to chase a dream.”
That dream includes playing on the biggest stage soccer offers.
“Going to Europe is obviously one of the biggest dreams I’ve always had, playing for a big club like Real Madrid or some club that has a great history behind it,” said Pepi.
He has to prove himself with FC Dallas first. His talent is undeniable, and whether it’s as a starter or a super substitute, Pepi is beginning to show off his skills on a regular basis.
“I want to play my own game. I see myself playing my own style,” Pepi said. “There’s a lot of players that play their own style and are good at it but my style, I just go towards it.”
Pepi has dual citizenship; he can play for the United States National Team, or the Mexican National Team. So far, he’s played 15 matches with the U.S. under-17 team, scoring five goals. Hopefully one day, that translates to the highest level.
No matter how high he rises, El Paso will always be his home.