MLS Exports

Ricardo Pepi scores brace to boost USMNT World Cup chances

Pepi Gronigen

Ricardo Pepi continues strengthening his case for a World Cup call-up with the US men's national team, netting a brace for FC Groningen and extending his scoring streak to three games in the Eredivisie.

Friday's two goals – one from the penalty spot, as well as a nice finish on a give-and-go inside the box – weren't enough to avoid a 3-2 home loss to RKC Waalwijk. But they are sure to keep the FC Dallas homegrown export in the conversation with just over a month before USMNT head coach Gregg Berhalter announces his final 26-man roster for Qatar on Nov. 9.

Pepi did little to help his cause during the recent September international window, earning a mere 13 touches in a 0-0 draw against Saudi Arabia. However, he's been another story of late at the club level.

The 19-year-old is rediscovering his form in the Dutch top flight, his home for the remainder of the 2022-23 season after being loaned out by German Bundesliga side FC Augsburg. In four games with Groningen, Pepi is already making Eridivisie history thanks to his four-goal, one-assist output.

This impressive turnaround comes after Pepi went nearly a year (345 days, to be exact) without finding the back of the net following a reported $20 million transfer from Dallas to Augsburg. He remained a constant presence in Berhalter's call-ups thanks to his performances during Concacaf World Cup qualifying – particularly a memorable outing in Honduras that earned the USMNT a massive 4-1 comeback victory against the Catrachos.

Former Dallas teammate Jesus Ferreira, Josh Sargent (Norwich City) and Jordan Pefok (Union Berlin) are the other strikers presumably in the running with Pepi for a spot on the final roster.

The USMNT are in Group B in Qatar, and their full group stage schedule is as follows:

  • Nov. 21 vs. Wales (2 pm ET)
  • Nov. 25 vs. England (2 pm ET)
  • Nov. 29 vs. Iran (2 pm ET)