2022 is right around the corner and we know what that means. We are officially in a World Cup year. Granted this World Cup year is different from the past in that it will not be played until December and not in the Summer. Interest in soccer explodes around the World Cup and that interest should carry over into soccer cards. With that in mind here are a few guys that could potentially see a huge gain in hobby popularity in 2022.
This list is meant to identify potential breakouts based on three main factors; success in the World Cup plus success in Champions League or Europa League, and in some cases a potential transfer. I call this the Mbappe path to stardom. He followed up a brilliant Champions League run with Monaco to a World Cup win for France and the rest is history. A breakout is also relative but for this article let’s say there prices can go up 50+% in the coming year. For this article we will only focus on young players. All are 22 or younger entering 22. There will likely be an established superstar or two that has a huge rise in the coming year based on the criteria stated but you are already familiar enough with guys like Mbappe and Messi. The list is broken down into groups based on how much hobby love they have already received plus their breakout potential.
These is in no particular order to the lists. This is meant to be an informative article not a pump. Make your choices based on how you think the season plays out.
*All Buy links on this page are to Ebay listings
Well Known Wonderkids
Vinicius Junior – Vini Jr. was a bright hobby star last year but his play on the field led to a big fall. This season so far for Real Madrid he has been on fire and the love is starting to come back. He opens up the Champions League Knockout Stage against PSG in what is sure to be the most watched games of the round. That sword cuts both ways. If Madrid win and he scores the boom could happen soon. If they lose he will have to wait until his World Cup chance with Brazil where he and the Seleção Canarinho should have success. (Buy Vinicius Junior Rookies)
Jonathan David – The Canadian striker has already had quite the end to 2021 which has put him on many people’s radars. He is leading Ligue 1 in goals scored. Lille has advanced to the Knockout Stage of the Champions League where they will face Chelsea. They are not expected to win but Chelsea has not been in good form lately so an upset is possible which would really boost his stock. David has also been doing well in World Cup Qualifiers and Canada is in good shape to make the World Cup. That would really get more eyeballs on the burgeoning Canadian star. He also has a transfer coming in 2022. (Buy Jonathan David Rookie)
Mason Mount – Speaking of Chelsea while the team has struggled in Premier League play this year, at least by their standards, it is not because of Mount. he has scored a team leading 7 goals this year after only having 6 all of last year. it is likely the defending Champions League winners turn it around and Mount could get his second trophy. On the international side England has to be one of the favorites for the World Cup after their run in the Euros. Mount started and played 99 minutes in the final so he should be a fixture in the World Cup. If you do think he reaches the next level of hobby stardom a good safe bet for your money may be buying sealed wax of the 2019-2020 Topps products he has rookies in alongside Haaland and Fati. (Buy Mason Mount Rookie)
Ansu Fati – Speaking of Fati his luster has worn off about as much as any of the past hobby darlings thanks to his injuries. Few will argue he is one of if not the most talented youngsters on the planet. He is due back to start 2022 and hopefully he stays injury free. Barcelona has looked a mess this year but Ansu has provided a glimmer of hope when he has played. He has 4 starts and 4 goals in all competitions for Barca. Barca has dropped down to Europa League which in most years I would say wouldn’t get much attention. This year should be different with so many young hobby superstars including Haaland playing. A Europa final between Barcelona and Borussia Dortmund would be must see TV. Fati also plays internationally for Spain who certainly can make noise at the World Cup. If healthy he figures to be a mainstay in the side.
One other thing you can’t underestimate when it comes to Fati. He is already a legit superstar though his hobby star has faded. Barca wouldn’t have just give the #10 jersey to anyone. He has huge endorsement deals as well as over 7 million Instagram followers. The media will pump him heavy and more-so than other players if he can stay healthy and keeps playing at the level he has in the past. (Buy Ansu Fati Rookies)
Giovanni Reyna – Another high flyer who has seen a big interest decline due to injury. He is also due back in early 2022. In his 3 starts for Borussia Dortmund this year he had 2 goals. Being the 2nd most well known American player could pay huge dividends for the World Cup. If he picks up where he left off before injury expect him to start making significant hobby noise. (Buy Giovanni Reyna Rookies)
The German Wonderkids
These two get their own tier. I wasn’t sure if they should be in the well known or less known list. They exploded in the hobby in the last month or so but 3 months ago very few knew who they were. Their price increases mean more people are definitely paying attention to them. Neither are also likely to star in the World Cup. They should definitely be there but as of now they look to be sub level players for Germany. That doesn’t mean they can’t have an impact. Just makes it less likely.
Karim Adeyemi – What he has done so far leading Salzburg to the Knockout Stage is nothing short of unbelievable. They are the youngest team to ever qualify and none of the previous Salzburg superstars has been able to get them out of group. that Cinderella run likely ends in the round of 16 versus Bayern Munich. He also has a big transfer coming this year. Now if by some miracle Salzburg beats Bayern Munich or he scores a few World Cup goals he has one of the highest breakout potentials of anyone on this list. (Buy Karim Adeyemi Rookies)
Florian Witrz – Wirtz has really come into his own for Bayer Leverkusen this year. He has 5 goals and 8 assists in 13 Bundesliga starts this year. He has another 3 goals and 3 assists in Europa so far. As I mentioned above I think more eyeballs will be on Europa this year. He is being eyed by some of the biggest teams in Europe for a transfer as well. (Buy Florian Wirtz Rookies)
Lesser Known Wonderkids
Antony – Use everything said above about Vini Jr., as both are Brazilian, and just sub Ajax for Real Madrid. Ajax has an easier first round game which they should win which means Antony should get at least 2 rounds to breakout. (Buy Antony Rookies)
Noah Okafor – Okafor plays in the shadow of Adeyemi at Salzburg but as we have seen in the past multiple superstars can play for Salzburg at once. Okafor has .91 goals per 90 in league play this year and 1.37 G+A/90. He only gets half the minutes of Adeyemi but those are impressive numbers. He does have 3 Champions League goals already this year. Another thing going in his favor is he is likely to have more of a chance to play in the World Cup. He started the last 2 World Cup Qualifiers for Switzerland and contributed a goal and assist. The Swiss have already qualified for the World Cup after beating Italy in the group stage. He may have a real chance to shine in Qatar. (Buy Noah Okafor Rookies)
Timothy Weah – The son of George is probably known to Americans but he is by no means a known hobby star yet. He is essentially the America version of Jonathan David. He’s not as good a goal scorer but he has the advantage of being American. If he gets the start on the right wing for the USA in the World Cup he has a chance to shine. (Buy Timothy Weah Rookies)
The Dusan Vlahovic Tier
Based on the criteria I used for this article Dusan doesn’t qualify because Fiorentina is not playing in Champions League or Europa. That could all change in the January transfer window. He also plays for Serbia who qualified for the World Cup over Portugal so he will be in Qatar. Depending where and when he transfers he could be THE hobby breakout star of 2022. (Buy Dusan Vlahovic Rookies)