At 19-years old, Ricardo Pepi seemed destined to have his breakthrough perfomance in the 2022 World Cup in Qatar. In 2019, Pepi surprised the nation as a rookie with FC Dallas and he was sensational for the next three years. His development as a prospect was tremendous and many experts saw him as a potential candidate for the 2022 CONCACAF qualifers with the US national team. Manager Gregg Berhalter took notice and called him to the USMNT in 2021. Pepi was on the rise.
On January 2022, Augsburg went all-in and paid the $20 million transfer fee to bring him to Europe. In fact, that operation broke some records. Pepi was the most expensive American player from the MLS acquired by a European club and Augsburg have never spent that much money for a player in their entire history.
Nine months later, Augsburg decided to send Pepi to the Eredivisie considering he didn't score a single goal in Germany. FC Groningen got the loan for the 2022-2023 season and the striker lived up to the expectations with five goals in eight matches. He was having an extraordinary semester and everyone thought he would be on the United States roster for the World Cup.
Why is Ricardo Pepi missing the Qatar 2022 World Cup?
Ricardo Pepi was in the middle of a huge controversy because he could have played for Mexico instead of the United States. The player was born in El Paso, Texas, but most of his family is Mexican. In fact, both his parents wanted him to represent Mexico, but Gerardo Martino's call came too late and Pepi felt he was more appreciated by the USMNT.
Now, the truth is very few people understand why Gregg Berhalter left Pepi out of the 2022 World Cup. According to the US manager, he could only choose two of these three names: Jesus Ferreira, Josh Sargent and Ricardo Pepi. In the end, the call went for the first two and Pepi was snubbed. One of Berhalter's arguments was the Dutch league wasn't as strong as the EFL Championship (Sargent in Norwich City). Still, thousands of fans don't comprehend Berhalter's explanation.
The most incredible thing of this turn of events is that Pepi maybe left behind a real chance to play the World Cup with Mexico, because he assumed there was a spot for him in the USMNT. Now, he's out of Qatar 2022, the Mexican team is no longer a possibility and Pepi will have to wait four more years to fulfill his childhood dream.