Stanford men’s soccer supporters rejoiced last week, as news broke of sophomore striker Jordan Morris’ decision to stay with the Cardinal for the 2015 campaign. The precocious sophomore made headlines as he declined a professional contract offer from his hometown club, Seattle Sounders FC. Under MLS rules, the Northwest club was able to tempt Morris with a Homegrown Player contract.
Such contracts are available to players who spent at least one year in the club’s academy system. Morris spent much of his youth career with Eastside FC in Bellevue, Washington, but burst onto the scene as a 17-year-old. In one year at the Sounders Academy, the Mercer Island, Washington product scored 27 goals in 28 games and was named the U17/U18 US Soccer Development Academy Player of the Year. Morris’ academy exploits, along with two impressive seasons at Stanford, put him firmly in the shop window for a professional contract.
“It has always been my dream to play professional soccer, so it was a big honor to get that offer,” Morris said.
However, while such a proposition would lure many young players away from their college team, Morris displayed maturity and foresight beyond his years.
“Soccer is going to come to an end [for me] at some point, and having an education, especially at a school like Stanford, is very beneficial,” Morris said.
As is widely said, though, the Stanford experience is more than just education. The sophomore also credits the environment that Stanford provides as a major reason for his prolonged departure.
“I’m really just loving it here,” Morris said. “I have the friends here now, and the experience would be so different coming back later to finish my degree.”
Such a decision takes much thought and deliberation. Throughout the process, Morris was keen to seek advice from anyone who might prove helpful.
“I talked to some of the guys on the Sounders that had to make similar decisions,” he noted. But the most praise was reserved for Morris’ brother, Christopher.
“I talked to him a lot. He played soccer in college as well, and is someone I really trust. In talking with him and my dad, we thought that leaving early might be something that I would really regret.”
Stanford men’s soccer has a recent precedent of players leaving to accept Homegrown Player contracts. Last year, midfielder Aaron Kovar signed with the Seattle Sounders, a path that Morris may soon follow. Kovar played two seasons with the Card before returning to his boyhood club.
“I played with [Aaron] for one season [at Stanford]. Whenever I go back to Seattle, I always talk with him. He’s definitely a good person to talk to about this,” Morris said.
Along with the initial opportunity to play with the Sounders, rumors have begun to swirl about Morris’ ultimate future in the sport. The best leagues, clubs and players are all in Europe, and it is every player’s dream to play overseas. However, when asked if foreign interest could tempt him away from the club he supported as a youth, he was surprisingly grounded.
“Right now, I really want to go play for Seattle. It’s a very comfortable place for me,” he said. The Stanford #13 also mentioned the proximity to family as a reason to stay with the Sounders.
Morris did not rule out Europe, but said it may take “a couple of years.” He pointed out other American starlets that had brief spells in the MLS before getting snapped up. This January, Sounders product DeAndre Yedlin was purchased by English club Tottenham Hotspur. The London team took a sharp interest in the fullback, who dazzled in one season for Seattle after signing the club’s first Homegrown Player contract.
“If the offer is there after a couple of years [to go to Europe], then going there could potentially be an option. But right now, I am definitely going to Seattle,” he reaffirmed.
Morris made his senior international debut this fall in a friendly against Ireland, coming on as a second-half substitute. Many have pegged the Sounders Academy product as one for the future with the United States, with an eye on the 2018 World Cup squad. Morris must prove his worth over the country’s best professionals, and the impact that staying in the college system could have on his National Team chances weighed heavy on his decision.
“I talked with Jurgen [Klinsmann] a lot, and he was very supportive of my choice to stay.” The US National Team coach, however, told Morris that there might be some areas in which he could supplement his development while still staying in school.
“Maybe over some breaks I could go over to Europe and train with a team to try and make up that difference [in training],” he said.
Professional clubs in Europe have a history of hosting American players for spells of training, especially during the MLS off-season. Klinsmann’s rapport with a host of European managers would no doubt help facilitate such an arrangement.
Morris heaped praise on Klinsmann and the whole National Team coaching staff, crediting them with helping him feel comfortable with staying. When asked whether his decision to stay could affect his National Team prospects, he gave reassurance.
“It’s been a dream of mine to play for the National Team, and if staying would jeopardize that, I might have had to make a different decision,” he said. “But from talks with them it seems that [Klinsmann] is comfortable with me staying and growing here.”
With the Morris saga seemingly over before it started, Jordan Morris will be with the Cardinal in 2015. However, he was unwilling to commit as to whether he will stay for four years. In any case, he does plan to return to the Farm after his career is over and finish his degree.
The next 12 months will be exciting for the precocious star, as summer will bring the return of possible National Team call-ups. Fall will see the to-be junior lead his Cardinal squad on an assault of the NCAA tournament. Morris listed winning the College Cup as one of his top goals for the coming year.
“That’s why I wanted to stay another year, to help in any way I can to achieve that goal as a team,” he said.
Morris also credited his college coaches and the facilities available to athletes for convincing him to stay.
“We have such great coaches, and I’ve learned so much here already,” he said.
The sophomore plans to use the next year to continue to develop his game to make the jump to the professional ranks that much smoother. As evidenced by his decision to stay, there was no better place for him to undergo that development than with his college teammates.
Options abound for the 20-year-old, but for now, Jordan Morris has spurned the Rave Green of the Sounders for the Cardinal of Stanford.
Contact Will Drinkwater at willydri ‘at’ stanford.edu.