Ricardo Pepi is welcomed to FC Augsburg. (Photo courtesy of FC Augsburg)

Ricardo Pepi has signed with a European team, but not exactly the one observers had been expecting.

The former FC Dallas striker has joined FC Augsburg of the Bundesliga, for a reported transfer fee of $20 million, from the MLS club.

He signed a five-year contract that runs through June 30, 2026 with an option to extend it for another year. The transfer fee reportedly is more than two times the previous Augsburg acquisition. The move also was the largest player transfer fee in FC Dallas history.

Clubs such as Ajax and Borussia Dortmund had been rumored about signing the 18-year-old men’s international, but he wound up with a German squad that is in the midst of a relegation battle. Augsburg (4-7-6, 18 points) is in 15th place out of 18 teams, one point ahead of VfB Stuggart, which is in the demotion zone. The team has scored only 17 goals in as many matches, tied for fourth lowest total in the league.

The 18-year-old U.S. men’s national team forward enjoyed a breakout banner year for club and country, recording three goals and as many assists for the Red, White and Blue. The 2021 U.S. Soccer and MLS young player of the year, Ricardo tallied 13 times for FC Dallas.

“We are delighted that Ricardo has decided to join FCA despite interest from a number of top clubs around the world,” Augsburg manager Stefan Reuter said in a statement. “We were able to provide him with a clear sporting plan for his future development that convinced him to come here,” said Stefan Reuter. “We are certain that he will continue to improve here in Augsburg and that we’ll have a lot of fun together over the coming years.”

Pepi said that “moving to Europe after the conclusion of the MLS season was my dream.”

“I believe FC Augsburg and the Bundesliga will prove the perfect settings for me to gain match practice at the top level as a youngster,” he added. “The efforts the FCA club officials put in to sign me were really impressive. As a result, I felt right away that FCA was the right club for me. I can’t wait to meet my new teammates and I want to integrate into the team as quickly as possible. I can hardly wait to get going!”

Pepi will wear No. 18 for Augsburg.

The 6-1, 163-lb. forward arrived in Augsburg on Sunday afternoon and underwent a medical at the club, before signing for FCA on Monday. He will begin training individually in preparation for the second half of the season, which starts this Saturday as Augsburg travels to face Hoffenheim.

Several high-profile and USMNT players have gone through FC Dallas or the club’s academy system before signing with European clubs. They include midfielder Weston McKennie and defenders Chris Richards and Reggie Cannon.

“We are proud of what Ricardo Pepi has accomplished during his time in our organization,” FC Dallas president Dan Hunt said in a statement. “He truly represents the FC Dallas pathway: coming from our affiliate in El Paso, playing in the Academy, becoming the first signing in the history of North Texas SC and then making his debut with the first team. We’re happy for Ricardo and his family and look forward to watching him realize his dream of playing in one of the most prestigious leagues in the world.”

Added FC Dallas technical director Andre Zanotta: “This transfer fee allows us to be aggressive in both this transfer window as well as the summer’s. We’re committed to building a championship roster and recognize we have several positions to fill. This move helps us do that.”