It was a whirlwind year for Sergino Dest, for both club and country.
The Dutch-born defender saw his Under-20 World Cup get off to a rough start, but he rebounded quickly to eventually turn in a strong showing to help the Americans reach the World Cup quarterfinals. That looked like it might be the highlight of his year at the time, but it wound up being just the beginning of a meteoric rise for the teenager.
Dest went on to break through as a starter for Dutch champion Ajax, and also earning his first caps with the U.S. Men’s National Team. After considering interest from the Dutch national team, Dest announced his decision to represent the United States, and followed that up by helping the Americans win their Concacaf Nations League group.
That whirlwind series of events helped Dest earn SBI’s USMNT Young Player of the Year award. Dest was one of six finalists for the official U.S. Soccer award, with the winner set to be announced later in December.
The award is based on youth national team performances, but club performance is also a factor.
Here is SBI’s list, in order, of the top young USMNT performers in 2019:
1. Sergino Dest
The 19-year-old fullback enjoyed a breakout 2019, starring at the Under-20 World Cup before establishing himself as a starter for Ajax in the new season. He parlayed that success into a USMNT call-up, and subsequent tug-of-war with the Dutch National team for his services.
Dest chose the United States, and followed that up with an impressive showing in the USMNT’s Nations League win against Canada. His national team emergence, coupled with his form on the club level, both domestically and in the Champions League, made him the clear choice for this honor.
2. Chris Richards
The best player on the U.S. Under-20 national team at the Under-20 World Cup, Richards drew rave reviews for his play in Poland last summer, and emerged from the competition as a global prospect to watch.
Though he has yet to break through with the first team at Bayern Munich, Richards has continued to play well for Bayern’s U-19 team.
3. Paxton Pomykal
A very good case could be made for Pomykal to stake a claim to the award after an impressive season with FC and strong performance at the Under-20 World Cup. Pomykal was one of the young breakout players in MLS in 2019, helping FC Dallas reach the MLS playoffs, and he was one of the better players on the U.S. Under-20 national team’s run to the World Cup quarterfinals.
4. Gio Reyna
Though he and the rest of the U.S. Under-17 national team endured a disappointing Under-17 World Cup, Reyna still deserves credit for his heroics in Concacaf Under-17 qualifying, scoring six goals to help the Americans reach the final. He has since moved to Borussia Dortmund’s youth setup, and has starred for Dortmund’s U-19 team.
5. Gianluca Busio
Busio also starred at the Concacaf Under-17 Championships, recording five goals to help the Americans reach the final. He was one of the few bright spots at the Under-17 World Cup, and also broke through with Sporting Kansas City, making 22 appearances for the MLS club, notching three goals.