- Pepi rose to stardom in 2021
- But 2022 struggles at Augsburg tanked his stock
- Berhalter hints subsequent loan to Groningen not enough
WHAT HAPPENED? Pepi was not named to the USMNT's 26-man squad, with Berhalter opting to bring Jesus Ferreira, Josh Sargent and Haji Wright at the striker position. The coach acknowledged that the competition came down to two separate decisions: two of Ferreira, Sargent and Pepi and then one of Wright or Pefok.
WHAT DID THEY SAY? "Ricardo was up against Josh [Sargent] and Jesus [Ferreira] and we thought it was valuable that Josh was playing in that competition (the Championship) where two of our opponents are coming from," Berhalter said of the decision not to select Pepi. "The Dutch league, I think it's a great league, but it doesn't bring the same physicality that the Premier League or the Championship brings. That was something that went into the decision.
"Ricardo Pepi has had a great run of form and maybe he should be there, and I can understand that, but we have to choose and we chose to bring three strikers and these were the ones we chose."
THE BIGGER PICTURE: Berhalter's snub of Pepi was not entirely unexpected after the 19-year-old failed to score in any of his 15 league appearances with Augsburg. Five goals in eight matches on loan at Groningen did not save the striker's chances. If USMNT forwards struggle in Qatar, though, the decision not to bring Pepi may still be questioned.
IN TWO PHOTOS:
Sargent earned a spot with his play for Norwich City.Getty
And a recent hot run for Ferreira in MLS also took away a ticket from Pepi.Getty Images
WHAT NEXT FOR PEPI? At 19 years old, Pepi will turn his attention to future World Cups, starting with the 2026 tournament on U.S. soil. He will theoretically be approaching his prime at that point if his development gets back on track.