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Homegrown FC Dallas Star Ricardo Pepi Makes $20M Move to German Bundesliga

Pepi, an El Paso native and the MLS young player of the year, in 2021 tied the MLS record for goals by a teenager over a single season with 13

Ricardo Pepi
Stefan Puchner/picture alliance via Getty Images

American forward and El Paso native Ricardo Pepi signed with Augsburg of Germany's Bundesliga from Major League Soccer's FC Dallas on Monday, agreeing to a 4 1/2-season contract that includes an option to extend through the 2026-27 season.

The Augsburger Allgemeine reported the German club was paying more than 13 million euros ($14.8 million) plus potential add-ons totaling a reported $20 million for the 18-year-old striker, which would amount to the highest amount for a transfer of a homegrown American player from MLS.

Moving to Europe after the conclusion of the MLS season was my dream. I believe FC Augsburg and the Bundesliga will prove the perfect settings for me to gain match practice at the top level as a youngster.

Ricardo Pepi

Pepi made his U.S. national team debut in September and has three goals in seven appearances.

"We were able to provide him with a clear sporting plan for his future development that convinced him to come here," Augsburg general manager Stefan Reuter said in a statement. "We are certain that he will continue to improve here in Augsburg and that we'll have a lot of fun together over the coming years."

The reported fee would be a record transfer for Augsburg, which has been in the Bundesliga since its first promotion to the top division for the 2011-12 season.

Augsburg is 15th in the 18-team league at the halfway mark, one point ahead of Stuttgart and two in front of Arminia Bielefeld. The bottom two teams are relegated at the end of the season, and 16th place goes to a playoff for a spot in next season's Bundesliga.

Pepi, who wore No. 16 in Dallas, was given the No. 18 jersey by Augsburg and was at practice Monday. Pepi could make his debut at Hoffenheim on Saturday.

Ricardo Pepi
Shaun Clark/Getty Images
CARSON, CA - OCTOBER 23: Ricardo Pepi #16 of FC Dallas reacts during the game against Los Angeles Galaxy at the Dignity Health Sports Park on October 23, 2021 in Carson, California. The game ended in a 2-2 draw.

Augsburg has been hampered by injuries to forwards Florian Niederlechner and Alfred Finnbogason.

Pepi made his MLS debut in 2019. He had 13 goals and set up two more in 31 league games for Dallas in 2021 and was named the league's young player of the year. Pepi is a homegrown FC Dallas player, first joining the team's youth academy before signing with FC Dallas' affiliate North Texas SC in 2018. FC Dallas signed Pepi as its 26th Homegrown on June 21, 2019.

Last summer, Pepi became the youngest MLS player to score a hat trick -- three goals in the same game.

“This is an important move for FC Dallas, Ricardo, and Major League Soccer,” said FC Dallas Technical Director Andre Zanotta. “He represents what is possible in the FC Dallas Academy system and for soccer players in the United States. This transfer shows our commitment to developing talent and helping them achieve their professional goals.” 

“We are proud of what Ricardo Pepi has accomplished during his time in our organization,” said FC Dallas President Dan Hunt. “He truly represents the FC Dallas pathway: coming from our affiliate in El Paso, playing in the Academy, becoming the first signing in the history of North Texas SC, and then making his debut with the first team. We’re happy for Ricardo and his family and look forward to watching him realize his dream of playing in one of the most prestigious leagues in the world.”

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“An opportunity like this is something I have worked my entire life to accomplish,” said Pepi in a statement released by FC Dallas. “This is truly a dream realized. I understand that I have to keep pushing, training, and growing. I am grateful to the FC Dallas organization for helping me achieve this goal. I will always have a special place in my heart for FC Dallas and our amazing fans. Thank you for supporting me. I will continue to make you proud.”

“While it’s a challenge to lose a player like Pepi, who was one of the most talented players in the league in 2021, it also creates an opportunity for us to reinvest the proceeds from this transfer on players who can make an immediate impact on the field and help us compete at a high level,” said FC Dallas Head Coach Nico Estévez.

The transfer fee, Zanotta said, allows FC Dallas to be aggressive in competing for new players.

“We’re committed to building a championship roster and recognize we have several positions to fill. This move helps us do that," Zanotta said.

FC Dallas Homegrown Ricardo Pepi Career Timeline

From FC Dallas

  • Signs with FC Dallas Academy in 2016, coming from the club’s youth affiliate in El Paso. During the 2016-17 Academy season, he appeared in 15 games and scored 18 goals for U-13 Academy team and scored 12 goals in 13 appearances for the U-14 Academy. While with the U-16s, he appeared in 14 games and scored five goals. He scored a total of 19 goals in eight games for the U-16/17 squad in 2018-19, the nation’s best goals-per-game rate.
  • Signs with North Texas SC on December 6, 2018. He makes his North Texas SC debut in the inaugural match for the club on March 30, 2019 and scores his first professional hat trick. 
  • Signs with FC Dallas on a short-term loan ahead of the 2019 Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup match on June 11, 2019. He makes his FC Dallas debut on June 12, 2019 and records his first FC Dallas assist. 
  • Signs as the 26th Homegrown in FC Dallas history on June 21, 2019 at the age of 16 years and 163 days old.  He makes his MLS debut after subbing in the 84th minute against Toronto FC on June 22, 2019.
  • Scores his first MLS goal, a game-tying goal in stoppage time, on March 7, 2020 against Montreal at Toyota Stadium.
  • Starts in his first MLS match on August 29, 2020 against Minnesota United FC at Toyota Stadium. Pepi recorded an assist in the 3-1 win. 
  • Scores his first MLS Cup Playoff goal in stoppage time against the Portland Timbers to send FC Dallas to penalty kick shootout on November 22, 2020. FC Dallas advances to the next round after beating Portland 8-7 in penalties. He becomes the youngest player in FC Dallas postseason history (third youngest in MLS Cup playoffs history) to score a postseason goal at 17 years, 318 days old. He also becomes the youngest to make his MLS postseason debut for the club. 
  • Scores first MLS brace in 2-1 win against New England Revolution on June 27, 2021 at Toyota Stadium. 
  • Scores first MLS hat trick in 4-1 win against LA Galaxy on July 24, 2021 at Toyota Stadium. At 18 years and 196 days, Ricardo Pepi becomes the youngest player in MLS and FC Dallas history to score a hat trick. 
  •  He is named to the 2021 MLS All-Star Game and 2021 MLS All-Star Skills Challenge that was held on August 24 in Banc of California Stadium in Los Angeles. 
  • Earns first call up to the U.S. Men’s National Team on August 26, 2021. 
  • Scores the game-winning goal in his USMNT debut on September 8, 2021 vs. Honduras in a World Cup Qualifier 18 years and 242 days old. 
  • Scores his first international brace in the 2-0 win against Jamaica on October 7, 2021 at Q2 Stadium in Austin, TX. 
  • Tops MLSsoccer.com’s annual 22 Under 22 list on October 12, 2021. 
  • Earns the MLS Young Player of the Year award on November 18, 2021. 
  • Earns the U.S. Soccer Young Male Player of the Year award on December 18, 2021.
NBC 5 News and the Associated Press.
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