Ajax defender Sergino Dest chooses U.S. over Netherlands

Ajax full-back Sergino Dest has pledged his international future to the U.S. men's national team, the player announced on Monday.

Dest, 18, was born in Almere, Netherlands, the son of a Dutch mother and Surinamese-American father. As such, he could have represented either the U.S. or the Netherlands at international level, and both sides have been pushing for Dest to make a decision in recent weeks. Dest has made that decision, opting to represent the U.S., with his first opportunity to represent the senior team in a competitive fixture set to take place on Nov. 15 against Canada.

"Of course, it was a tough decision for me when the Dutch Men's National Team showed their interest, but I have built up a very good feeling with Team USA over the last couple of years and I strongly believe in the plans and potential of U.S. Soccer," Dest said. "I am therefore dedicated to making the next 10-15 years a big success and will do my utmost to help the team play for titles."

Dest has already represented the U.S. at Under-17 and U20 level, helping the U20s reach the quarterfinals of the U20 World Cup earlier this year. He also made two appearances for the U.S. senior team back in September, though because those were friendlies, his was not cap-tied for the Stars and Stripes.

But when Dest cracked the lineup of club side Ajax at the start of the season, he drew the attention of Netherlands national team manager Ronald Koeman, who attempted to sell the player on the benefits of representing the country of his birth.

Given that Dest has spent his entire life in the Netherlands, and came up through Ajax's youth system, the thought was that the Dutch had the inside track. But in a bid to keep Dest in the U.S. fold, U.S. manager Gregg Berhalter and sporting director Earnie Stewart went to Amsterdam last week, meeting with the player and his father the day after Ajax's UEFA Champions League encounter against Chelsea. Those efforts proved successful.

"We are thrilled to have Sergino commit to our program," said Berhalter. "He is an exceptional young player with a bright future. Our youth national teams gave him the platform to showcase his talents on the world stage and now he will continue his progress with us at the senior level."

Dest's announcement counts as a welcome bit of good news for the U.S. While 69 dual nationals have represented the U.S. at senior level since 2008, some high-profile defections have resulted in the U.S. Soccer Federation being criticized for not doing more to gain commitments from such players.

In 2018, Monterrey and former U.S. U20 midfielder Jonathan Gonzalez filed a one-time switch to represent rivals Mexico. In 2016, highly touted prospect and former U.S. youth international Efrain Alvarez switched his allegiance to Mexico, though because he hasn't played for El Tri in a competitive fixture at senior level, a return to the U.S. remains possible. For Stewart, who himself was a dual national with Dutch and American citizenship, Dest's decision was especially gratifying.

"We are excited that Sergino will continue with our program," Stewart said. "In all of our discussions, Sergino expressed the comfort he feels within the group and his appreciation for the commitment the Federation has made along the way. As a dual national myself, I understand the choices that these young players face. Our job is to provide a clear pathway and maintain honest and open communication, and then ultimately it comes down to a personal decision."