2020 was shaping up to be one to remember for fans of the U.S. Men’s and Women’s National Teams. The WNT was set to go for Olympic gold for the record 5th-time while the MNT aimed to compete in the Gold Cup, Olympics, and begin FIFA World Cup Qualifying.
The year did not go as planned; however, that didn’t stop fans from witnessing what has been one of the most intriguing years in U.S. Soccer history. We’ve seen young MNT players join some of the biggest teams in the world, while several WNT players crossed the Atlantic to shine in England.
Sergiño Dest joins Barcelona, social following skyrockets
Without a doubt, the biggest move for an American this summer is 19-year-old Sergiño Dest’s transfer from Ajax to Barcelona, one of the world’s biggest and most widely recognized sports organizations. The move is a watershed moment for a MNT player both on and off the field; one that will surely see him inspire millions of young children here in the U.S. Moreover, it’s a move that may see the young defender become one of U.S. Soccer’s most widely recognized players.
Since moving to the Spanish giants to play alongside Lionel Messi and company, Dest’s following on his social media has exploded.
- His Instagram following has increased by 361% to 757,358 followers in the past month
- His average likes per post sit at 314,000
- He is now the second most-followed MNT player
From a content perspective, Sergiño is not the heaviest of hitters on social media… yet. However, he’s on his way to being a face of U.S. Soccer and a globally-recognized athlete. Excitingly enough, he was not the only MNT player to move to a global super club during the 2020 European transfer window.
Weston McKennie in Italy
At the start of the transfer window, rumors were swirling about where Dallas native Weston McKennie would end up. Some thought he’d stay at Schalke, while others, including a fan in our office, believed (hoped) he may end up at Southampton. Needless to say, it took everyone by surprise when he was finally announced as a new player for Italian giants, Juventus. One day he was on an underperforming team in Gelsenkirchen and the next he was trading jokes with teammate Cristiano Ronaldo, the most followed person on Instagram.
Similarly to Dest, Weston’s follower count exploded in the days after he was announced as a player for The Old Lady.
- Instagram following increased by 205% to 468,939 followers
- Average engagement increased to 124k per post
However, it wasn’t just the young stars of the MNT that made big splashes in Europe this summer – many World Cup-winning WNT players also made European moves.
USWNT stars outpace Manchester United men in jersey sales
Tobin Heath and Christen Press, two of the best soccer players in the world, joined Manchester United of the FA’s Women’s Super League this summer in order to compete and stay fit for the 2021 Olympics. It soon became clear to many in England what fans in the United States already know – these women are superstars.
Upon arriving in England, jersey sales for Heath and Press outsold jerseys for any player on the men’s team, including Paul Pogba and Marcus Rashford, over a three-day period. It goes to show what investing in the women’s team can do for a brand like Manchester United.
While we didn’t get the exciting year of international soccer we were expecting, there were still many moments that remind you that sometimes it’s what happens outside the painted lines of the field that are the most interesting.