Jordan Morris can play at the MLS level today. That much was made abundantly clear during his breakout performance for the United States national team in Wednesday's friendly against Mexico. It wasn't just Morris' goal, of course, it was the numerous strong runs he made, the feel for the game he showed and the general way in which he carried himself, clearly not overcome by the stage.
The Seattle Sounders know this. Heck, they've known it for a few years. If Morris had wanted to skip college and sign with the Sounders two years ago, you can bet that it would have happened.
But he didn't want to sign then. So the Sounders waited.
After his freshman season, when Morris' stock was starting to rise, the Sounders again made sure that Morris knew they were ready whenever he was. Morris didn't want to go pro then. So, the Sounders waited.
After his sophomore season, when Morris was starting to get calls into the senior national team and was now a fixture with the youth national team, the Sounders reached out. But Morris wanted to go back to school. So the Sounders waited.
Following yesterday's performance, you can bet that process will be renewed.
The good news, if you're a Sounders fan, is that Morris keeps repeating his interest and intention to eventually sign with his hometown team. And while the Sounders are probably happy to wait, it's also starting to look like they've set up their roster with Morris in mind.
As it stands now, the Sounders have two open roster spots, a need for another wide attacking player and some maneuverability under the salary cap.
While previous overtures the Sounders may have made to Morris were likely of the "we don't want to lose him" variety, it's becoming increasingly apparent that the Stanford sophomore could fit nicely into the current rotation. Although he's played mostly as a forward, Morris has the skill set to play out wide and offers something the Sounders could put to immediate use, even if only off the bench.
The salary cap situation is also key. Even though Morris would be a Homegrown Player, the off-cap budget given to teams is limited (teams are believed to be given a $75,000-off cap budget to spend on HGPs). As a USMNT player with three caps and a goal, Morris can likely demand a bit more than your average HGP, meaning the Sounders may have to use actual salary cap room to sign him.
The final piece is, of course, Morris' willingness to sign and it remains entirely possible that he'll simply choose to continue his education at Stanford.
Right now, that's what he seems set to do. He has already returned to school, attending classes alongside future Nobel Prize winners, Supreme Court justices and leaders of industry. He's also in the midst of the Cardinal's spring season, which resumes on Saturday against Santa Clara.
But once that's over and he's completed his sophomore year, you've got to imagine that the pull to the professional ranks will be almost irresistible. He knows he can play at the next level. He knows no athlete's future is guaranteed. If he really wants to push his potential, Morris knows that he needs to go pro. Every athlete needs a backup plan, but Stanford will welcome Morris back with open arms if he decides to leave. If he does leave, that return to Stanford could be funded by the Sounders as part of his HGP contract.
None of this is to suggest that Morris has to take the next step. But it sure does seem to be lining up nicely if he does.