"I am ready to play": Ricardo Pepi on his decision to join USMNT

Ricardo Pepi FC Dallas

The dual-national drama surrounding 18-year-old FC Dallas striker Ricardo Pepi has reached a resolution.

On Thursday, U.S. Soccer announced that Pepi is on the USMNT's 26-man roster for their upcoming high-stakes World Cup Qualifiers against El Salvador, Canada and Honduras.

In an article released shortly after on the FC Dallas site, Pepi elaborated on why he picked the Yanks over Mexico for this critical stretch of matches.

“I want to start by saying that I am a Mexican-American and that I am super proud of my heritage,” Pepi told the club's Garrett Melcer. “It’s something that will never be taken away from me, no matter what national team I play for."

The El Paso native and FCD homegrown went on to say, "I made this decision because I felt the USA trusts me and I think that’s due to [USMNT head coach] Gregg Berhalter and how he emphasized this to me. I had good talks with Gregg and I feel I can make an impact with the USA and help this national team really do something special now and in the future.”

Pepi credited Berhalter for his recruiting efforts as a factor in the decision. “I spoke with Gregg, not just last month. He constantly followed up with me and called me twice after that. He showed me that I am special and I want to show him that I am ready for this moment.”

But the El Paso, Texas native also noted that he and his family have felt supported in being American, which translates into chasing a World Cup return.

"This country has given my family so many opportunities and it really has helped me achieve my goals," Pepi noted. "What better way to help them by hopefully one day lifting up a World Cup? I feel warmly welcomed and I can’t wait to show that I deserve to be here."

Pepi also tweeted Thursday about his experience growing up in the Borderlands and its impact on his decision.

As MLSSoccer.com reported on last year, a new FIFA rule regarding young players and cap-tying means that even if Pepi features in all three September contests, he won't officially be hinged to the USMNT. However, should he want to switch to Mexico in that scenario, he'd have to be at least three years removed from his most recent cap to move international teams — and he's now in the mix to play in a World Cup within the next 15 months.

And as Pepi noted, this is a decision he's made after great thought.

"I said that when I made this decision it would be with the heart," Pepi remarked. "It’s been made with the heart. If I put that jersey on, I am fighting for it until I can’t fight anymore. So yes, I am ready to play."