FC Dallas forward Ricardo Pepi was just named the 2021 MLS Young Player of the Year after the 18-year-old burst onto the scene with breakout campaigns for both club and country.
A product of the prolific FC Dallas Academy, Pepi led FC Dallas with 13 goals and three assists this season. Pepi’s standout performances included his first MLS hat trick at 18 years and 196 days old, the youngest player to score a hat trick in FC Dallas and MLS history, as well as a pair of braces, against the Supporters’ Shield winners New England Revolution on June 27 and against in-state rival Austin FC on Aug. 29. In addition, Pepi’s 13 goals this season ties the all-time single-season MLS record for most goals scored by a teenager as he became only the second teenager to score 10 or more goals in a single season.
In addition to his record-setting regular season, Pepi earned two MLS Player of the Week honors and was named to the 2021 MLS All-Star team, in which he scored the game-winning penalty kick, clinching an MLS All-Stars victory over the LIGA MX All-Stars, 3-2 on penalties.
Building on his success for FC Dallas, the El Paso native earned multiple call-ups to the U.S. Men’s National Team for Concacaf World Cup Qualifying, notching the go-ahead goal and dishing out two assists against Honduras on Sept. 8 in his debut at only 18 years and 242 years old and recording a brace against Jamaica on Oct. 7. He became the second-youngest U.S. Men’s National Team player to score in a World Cup Qualifier and the second youngest player to make his senior team debut behind Christian Pulisic.
The Young Player of the Year award honors the top player in the league age 22 and under. Players born on, or before, Jan. 1,1999 were eligible for selection. Pepi joins former FC Dallas forward Tesho Akindele and fellow Texas-native and National Hall of Fame Finalist Clint Dempsey in earning the award, previously known as Rookie of the Year.
The Young Player of the Year award was voted on by MLS club technical staff, media and current MLS players. Below is a breakdown of the voting results, with Pepi edging out Supporters’ Shield winner and New England Revolution’s Tajon Buchanan.