Ajax right back Sergino Dest, a rising star in the European club soccer scene, has a massive decision to make that could impact the rest of his international career, and it could come after this weekend. Much like a high school athlete committing to a school on National Signing Day, the 18-year-old Ajax right back is caught in a tug-of-war over which country he should represent in the senior level: the United States or the Netherlands.
Speaking exclusively to CBS Sports on Thursday, Dest said he hasn't made his decision yet but is almost there. Dest said he will continue to weigh his options and could possibly announce after Ajax takes on Feyenoord this weekend -- either on Monday or Tuesday.
The Dest sweepstakes seems to be pretty wide open at the moment. People close to him seem to think he's leaning toward joining the Dutch national team, but there is a strong sense of optimism among those in the United States camp. At the end of the day only Dest truly knows which team he'll pick, and it seems like we're getting close to a decision.
Dest was born in the Almere, Netherlands, but he's long been a U.S. youth product and even played two exhibition games for the United States national team in September. He recently turned down a call-up in October for the Nations League games that would have cap-tied him to the United States.
Dest joined the Ajax's first team this season and has played in 11 matches, including four in the Champions League. He was in the starting lineup for Wednesday 1-0 Champions League group stage loss to Chelsea in Amsterdam. U.S. men's national team coach Gregg Berhalter and sporting director Earnie Stewart were in attendance to watch fellow American Christian Pulisic and the Dutch-American youngster in action.
When discussing the possibility of joining USMNT, the first positive he mentioned was the mentality and the cohesion of the roster built by Berhalter.
"USA is more [of] a team," Dest said. "Great chemistry."
But how could he reject the Netherlands? It's one of the most iconic national teams in the history of the sport. He was born there and certainly identifies more with the Dutch, and having the chance to play alongside the likes of Virgil van Dijk and Matthijs de Ligt has to be enticing. Sure, playing time could be hard to come by, but any guarantees from the federation could be enticing.
"Netherlands, the team is unbelievable," he said.
Dest is a speedy, technical and versatile defender who even played left back for the U.S. in September. For the United States, he would seem to be a near-lock to play at the 2022 World Cup and potentially the 2020 Olympic Games in Tokyo, assuming the U.S. qualifies. With a lack of depth at left back, it's a position he could possible take over for the foreseeable future.