Legacy. Tradition. A who’s who of American sport. As the Gatorade Player of the Year program enters its fourth decade of honoring the nation’s best high school athletes, fans can count many a household name on the roster of former award-winners. Over the past three decades, prep sports’ most esteemed honor boasts Super Bowl, World Series, NBA, WNBA, MLS Cup, NCAA and Olympic champions among more than 14,000 State Players of the Year and 280 National POYs across 12 sports. Let’s not forget the scores of program alumni who have gone on to capture league-MVP, All-Star and All-American recognition.
Next week, Gatorade will announce this year’s National Boys Soccer Player of the Year. To get fans in the mood, we’re catching up with U.S Men’s National Soccer Team player and MLS rookie Jordan Morris.
The Seattle Sounders are a perennial power in Major League Soccer, so it came as a bit of surprise that the Sounders stumbled out of the gate for the 2016 season. But after dropping its first three games of the season, Seattle appears to be rounding into shape. Not coincidentally, so is Jordan Morris.
The rookie has scored in three straight games, including the game-winner in the final minutes of Seattle’s 1-0 win over the Columbus Crew on April 30.
Scoring goals is nothing new for the 2011-12 Gatorade Washington Boys Soccer Player of the Year. He’s been scoring in games since his days as a star at Mercer Island (Wash.), but it was a couple of goals during a scrimmage that really changed the arc of his soccer career.
The U.S. Men’s National Team held a camp at Stanford University in May 2014, one of the final camps before the World Cup in Brazil. At the end of the camp, National team coach Jurgen Klinsmann decided to hold a scrimmage against the college kids from Stanford.
Morris, who had actually trained a bit with the national team in the days leading up to the scrimmage, scored a goal and showed he was quite capable of keeping up with the fast pace of national-team play. A few months later in November, 2014, Morris took a break from his sophomore year with the Cardinal to make his debut with the USMNT in a friendly against Ireland. He was the first collegiate player to earn a cap with the full national team since 1995.
It wasn’t a one-shot deal. Morris became the first collegian to tally a goal for the national team when he scored in a win over Mexico in April, 2015. And two months later Morris earned the assist on the winning goal as the U.S. stunned world power Netherlands in Amsterdam.
Morris carried that confidence back to the Farm. As a junior last fall, Morris led the Cardinal to their first national championship, scoring a pair of goals in a 4-0 championship game rout of Clemson. The 2015 Pac-12 Player, he finished the season with 13 goals and three assists and won the Hermann Trophy as college soccer’s top player.
Morris left Stanford after his junior year, forgoing opportunities in Europe to join the Sounders and made his professional debut March 6 in a 1-0 loss to Sporting KC. It took him a few games to mesh with his teammates before finally breaking through with his first MLS goal, the game-winner in a 2-1 victory over Philadelphia on April 16. Morris followed that with another goal in a 3-1 loss to Colorado before punctuating a strong April with the winner against Columbus.
Morris will have to balance his play in Seattle with his commitments with the national team. He is one of 40 players that made the first cut in the U.S. squad selection process for June’s Copa America. After playing for the U.S. Soccer Under-23 Men’s National Team this past March—a squad that came within a whisker of securing a berth in this summer’s Olympics—Morris will continue to play a role in World Cup qualifying, which continues later this summer.
Expect his game to continue to round into shape.
To see the legacy for yourself, visit the Gatorade Player of the Year winner archive, where you can relive history and see which future stars won their first recognition as high school athletes. To see the cream of the crop, visit the roster of Gatorade High School Athlete of the Year winners, showcasing Gatorade’s top male and female National Player of the Year honoree, selected annually from each National POY class.