Morris, the budding U.S. national team regular and Mercer Island native whose Major League Soccer rights are held by his hometown club, will join Germany's Werder Bremen during its winter training camp, the Bundesliga club announded Tuesday.
It’s a sentence the Seattle Sounders have longed to see for years now: Stanford junior Jordan Morris is turning pro.
Given the circumstances, however, the announcement Tuesday on Stanford’s athletic website felt more ominous than an imminent sign that Seattle’s multiyear pursuit of the budding U.S. national-team star from its own backyard is coming to an end.
Morris, the 21-year-old Mercer Island native whose Major League Soccer rights are held by his hometown club, will join Germany’s Werder Bremen during its winter training camp, the Bundesliga club confirmed a few hours before Morris’ decision.
“It’s a good opportunity for us to get to know a player better,” Bremen sporting director Thomas Eichin said in the statement. “Nothing more, nothing less.”
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And given that Goal.com has reported that Morris is in “advanced negotiations” with the Sounders — and Sports Illustrated’s report that Morris is still seriously considering their Homegrown Player offer despite practicing with Bremen starting next week — Seattle still could land its man. Morris’ father, Michael, is the Sounders’ medical doctor, and Jordan has never publicly wavered from his oft-stated desire to start his professional career in Seattle.
This is nevertheless the clearest indication that Morris could leapfrog MLS in favor of a move overseas. In the soccer world, trials such as this often are glorified tryouts, a kicking of tires with a potential contract offer in mind.
Seattle already has offered Morris the most lucrative Homegrown Player deal in league history, and MLS sweetened the pot by adding $5 million in funds earmarked just for this type of signing. Sounders general manager Garth Lagerwey has been open about the fact that any plans for adding fresh legs into his team’s aging attack start with this particular 21-year-old.
“That money is already committed to Jordan Morris,” Lagerwey said last month. “He may take or not take it. But that money is also spoken for. It’s only a surplus you can use on a Homegrown. There’s no other Homegrown.”
Morris’ announcement came one day after Stanford’s year-end banquet and brings to a close one of the highest-profile college soccer careers in recent NCAA history.
Not only did he become the first college player since the 1990s to earn a USMNT call-up midway through his sophomore season, Morris also helped lead the Cardinal to the program’s first national title as a junior with two goals in the championship game against Clemson. The 2015 Pac-12 Player of the Year scored 13 goals in 18 appearances during his final year at Stanford and could cap his tenure there with a Hermann Trophy — soccer’s version of the Heisman, to be awarded Friday in St. Louis.
From Morris’ perspective, Bremen’s winter training camp undoubtedly is a great opportunity to get his foot in the door with a well-established club in one of Europe’s top leagues.
Werder Bremen has slipped down the table since its regular title challenges in the middle of last decade, but it has lifted four German titles throughout its proud history. The Bundesliga is admired as perhaps the most balanced of the major European leagues, with strong crowd support and talented squads from top to bottom. Bremen also already has a USMNT forward on the team: Aron Johannson, who has been sidelined since September because of a hip injury.
Morris will train with Bremen beginning next Monday in Southern Turkey before joining up with the USMNT 10 days into its January camp in California.
“It means nothing new,” Lagerwey said Tuesday. “It means what we’ve been saying for a year. Jordan is going to make the decision that Jordan wants to make.”