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MLS star Morris weighing up European move as battle for USMNT spots hots up

At the age of 26, Jordan Morris is entering the prime of his career, and that should be a scary thought for MLS defenders.

For several years the Seattle Sounders star has terrorized even the very best the league has had to offer, making the MLS Cup final in each of the four seasons where he was healthy enough to get there.

But, as he enters those prime years, Morris is now jostling with a familiar decision: should he stay or should he go?

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Ahead of December's MLS Cup finale, which ended in defeat for Morris and the Sounders at the hands of Columbus Crew, Morris admitted that he was at least considering a move to Europe.

It has been years since this topic originally became a cause for major debate, and the arguments have not died down since the talented winger turned down offers from the Bundesliga to settle closer to home in Seattle.

In the years since, Morris has emerged as one of the best forwards MLS has to offer. He has won two MLS Cups, been named Rookie of the Year and been recognized as a Best XI selection.

He has recorded three double-digit goal seasons, including a 12-goal campaign in the coronavirus-impacted 2020 campaign.

Yet, because of his age, there is a feeling of "now or never" for Morris. When it comes to MLS players, Europe's best clubs are not generally hunting for players of Morris' age.

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He has drawn interest from in the Premier League, Bundesliga, Ligue 1, Serie A and Turkish Super Lig, according to The Athletic, who also reported that Morris could fetch a fee of between $5-7 million. 

The question is which team would be willing to pay that? For that kind of price, most clubs could get a proven European veteran or an up-and-coming South American starlet. To justify a deal for Morris, a team would have to see him as an absolute need; a player that can make the difference between success and failure.

On the other side of that, Morris may very well be approaching his last chance to make this decision on his own. At a certain point, the ship sails and, at 26, time is running out if Morris wants to play at an elite level.

Speaking to reporters on Monday, Morris admitted that he is weighing up his options, adding that he would feel at peace with either a European adventure or a Seattle stay.

"Yeah definitely," he said when asked about the idea of moving on. "Some conversations are ongoing, with Seattle and in Europe a little bit. I think that, for me, it's a similar stance of kind of where I was before MLS Cup: if the right offer and the right team comes forward, it's something that I'd be interested in.

"If things don't work out and I end up in Seattle, I love being there and I feel like I'm growing a lot in Seattle. I think the league is growing, the quality of play is getting higher and I've felt myself develop there really, really well.

"But yeah, if the right opportunity came, it would definitely be something that I would look at. I guess we'll just have to kind of wait and see a bit, but still definitely open to those opportunities."

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Morris is one of the more senior players currently at the combined U.S. men's national team and U.S. Under-23 camp in Florida.

And, despite his status as one of MLS' best, he faces heavy competition with the national team. The winger, who primarily plays on the left, will have to contend with the likes of Christian Pulisic, Gio Reyna, Timothy Weah, Paul Arriola and Konrad de la Fuente for spots in the attack in the coming years, which will not be an easy task.

Morris certainly has both form and experience on his side. He has already got a Gold Cup final winning goal to his name as one of his 10 successful strikes in 39 caps. He is a proven goalscorer for both club and country, and one that has only improved in recent years.

But despite emerging as an star on home soil, as rivals for his position begin to thrive in the Champions Legaue, is that really enough?

Some see a European move as a necessity for Morris to truly push his way into a starting spot with the USMNT. Others, meanwhile, point to players like Landon Donovan, whose talent was actually aided by his comfort at club level.

"When I think about Jordan, the question isn't for me to answer. It's for Jordan to answer," USMNT boss Gregg Berhalter said in December. "It's a very personal feeling. He has to think about his own career goals and where he wants to go with his career and evaluate it and think what's going to get them to that place.

"Major League Soccer has done a fantastic job of becoming a league of choice, becoming a league that players want to play in and he's a guy that opted for MLS and has done a great job here. His next step is going to depend on him."

This camp presents Morris with a chance to earn his first cap since November 2019. Due to the coronavirus and his team's playoff successes, Morris has not represented the USMNT in quite some time.

With that in mind, and having seen several of the aforementioned players shine when given their own chances, Morris is glad to be back as the U.S. jumps into a 2021 campaign that features World Cup qualifying, the Olympics, the Gold Cup and the Nations League.

"It's awesome to be back," he said. " For me personally, it's been a while, obviously not being in a camp last year, so it's just amazing to be back with the team with the guys and back at it because we know this is a massive year ahead both for the Olympic team and the full team."

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That big year begins with this camp, one that is heavily skewed towards the U23s. He has the second-most caps of any players currently with the group, trailing only Jozy Altidore, in a camp that includes 12 USMNT players and 26 U23s.

And, with that in mind, Morris is embracing his current role with this young group.

"Time moves quickly, but what I really take away is how the veterans in those groups embraced me and helped me grow and help me get used to the speed of play and everything that comes with playing for the national team and understanding the responsibility and the honor that it comes with," he said.

"I appreciate that so much. They made me feel welcome and made that transition easier. I remember feeling so nervous and I'm sure some of the players are feeling that same way, so whatever we can do as the veteran group to make them feel comfortable and make them make that transition a little bit easier."

He added: " Every camp is an opportunity to learn and continue to get better. I think also building a brotherhood here, I think that's a big thing that we talked about is building a brotherhood.

"We know, going into an important year, it's important that we're all together on the same page so every opportunity that you have, especially in a longer camp like this, just to be around the guys is awesome."