'USMNT teenager Ricardo Pepi doesn't need the U20 World Cup' - Alexi Lalas says in-form striker might be too good for tournament in Argentina

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Ricardo Pepi USMNT 2023
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United States men's national team striker Ricardo Pepi, 20, is eligible for next month's U20 World Cup in Argentina, but is expected to skip it.
  • Pepi still in U20 age range
  • Has senior USMNT experience
  • Club form likely to keep him from participating

WHAT HAPPENED? Former USMNT player and current pundit Alexi Lalas was asked about Pepi's participation in the upcoming U20 tournament and said he didn't believe the striker would appear for the Stars and Stripes.

Pepi struggled so much when he signed with Augsburg last year that he missed the USMNT's senior World Cup roster in Qatar, but since joining Groningen on loan in the Netherlands he's recaptured his goalscoring form. As a result, Pepi has been back in senior international camp and may not see a youth tournament as necessary for his development.

WHAT THEY SAID: "That's interesting, because normally you would say that the opportunity for a player to play in a youth World Cup is something you want to take advantage of because you're in the storefront window and there are plenty of teams that are looking and shopping for young talent," Lalas said on his State of the Union podcast. "I'm not sure that Pepi right now needs that. He's done the club version of that where he went out on loan, he's scoring a boatload of goals for a team that's struggling and he has kind of recaptured [his magic].

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"Yes he can [go], but I don't think that he needs to and I don't know that he wants to."

THE BIGGER PICTURE: Rather than joining the U20 roster, it's more likely that Pepi will be part of the USMNT's CONCACAF Nations League squad in June.

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IN THREE PHOTOS:

Ricardo Pepi USMNT 2022-23

Ricardo Pepi Groningen 2022-23

Ricardo Pepi USMNT 2023

WHAT'S NEXT FOR PEPI: The forward's loan at Groningen ends at the conclusion of the 2022-23 season, but he's said he doesn't want to play for parent club Augsburg again. That means he will likely join a new team, potentially on a permanent deal, this summer.

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