Jordan Morris is finally turning pro. It's official and the much-hyped 22-year-old will now turn to choosing which club to sign with.
So where should Morris sign?
It's easy to say the Seattle Sounders, and for good reason. The Sounders have his homegrown rights and can sign him to a Generation adidas contract that will not count against the team's salary cap. Not only does that make Morris pretty well paid, but it allows him to join an already good team without worrying about taking up cap space needed to continue improving the team. Basically, he gets to play for an MLS Cup contender that should get stronger. On top of all that, he is from Seattle and his dad is one of the team's doctors so there's an obvious emotional tie there.
The Sounders would also provide Morris a strong developmental path. Obafemi Martins and Clint Dempsey are the unquestioned stars of the team and both will be first choice, but the two will turn 32 and 33 years old respectively during the upcoming season.
Neither Martins nor Dempsey can be counted upon to start and play every match or near it, let alone go 90 minutes each week. Martins only managed 21 matches last season and Dempsey 20. That leaves 27 starts to be claimed at forward and that's just in the league, with more in cup matches. Toss in appearances off the bench and it's reasonable that Morris could make 20 starts and play in over 30 matches for the Sounders next season.
It's easy to see why Morris would be tempted to sign with the Sounders. He's a great fit there, for the team and himself personally. He'd play plenty and, while there are plenty of reasonable critiques of Sigi Schmid, he has shown a willingness to play and develop young players. Should he choose MLS and the Sounders, it would be nearly impossible to quibble with the decision.
And yet Europe looms. Morris is going to train with Werder Bremen and they are certainly not the only team from the continent interested.
The situation in Seattle is pretty clear, but the offerings and opportunities of Europe are entirely cloudy. It's impossible to say which clubs, outside of Bremen, want to sign Morris. and, even with Bremen, how badly they want him. There's no word of "record homegrown contract offer," like there is with the Sounders, making their desire clear as day.
There is an undeniable lure of going to Europe, though. There are several leagues there that are bigger and better than MLS. The sport is the biggest, second-biggest and third-biggest in countries throughout the continent, not the fourth or fifth-biggest like in the U.S., and their leagues are often the most popular in their respective countries, whereas there's an argument to be made that Liga MX and the Premier League are more popular than MLS in the U.S. To be part of that culture has to be tempting, not to mention opening the door to playing on such huge stages.
A move to Europe could also pay off financially. The Sounders are doing all they can to sign Morris, offering him a record-setting contract, but European clubs could still pay him significantly more than he would get in MLS.
It's possible that Morris has the chance to join a team in one of the best couple leagues in the world, get paid millions, instead of hundreds of thousands, have some of the best coaches around teaching him and shepherding his development. Europe could be incredible for Morris and give him the chance for much more than the Sounders could ever provide for him, no matter how badly they want him.
Eventually, Morris probably wants to play in Europe and at one of the world's biggest clubs. Starting in Europe can be helpful for that, especially considering some of the problems MLS players have had leaving the league. Signing with the Sounders means that MLS controls his fate and the league office determines whether to sell him, something that could get hairy with Morris potentially on track to become an icon in American soccer that catapults his value to MLS much higher than it would be to a foreign club.
This is all a best-case European scenario, though. Maybe the European offers aren't at the best of clubs, or even in the best of leagues. The pay may not be much greater than what the Sounders are putting before him, or even greater at all. And the club could be beset by coaching changes and instability, while MLS may not stand in the way of his leaving for Europe down the road because they have sold off players with ease before.
The Sounders are the safe choice. Morris knows the club inside-out and he's all but guaranteed a pretty good check and playing time. He'll learn from great players, be in a solid system and grow. Everything there is set up for him to succeed. But it's not Europe. It's not sexy and it doesn't have the same potential. It also doesn't have the considerable risk.
So where should Morris sign? Good luck answering that question with any sort of confidence. But he's in a good place and he has at least once great choice, with many more potentially on the table too.