The 60-player preliminary rosters for the 2023 Concacaf Nations League came out on Friday, with Morris named to both the United States and Canada national teams. Morris was born in Ft. Lauderdale, Fla., but has Canadian citizenship through his father. Morris also has Italian citizenship.
That leaves Morris, 21, caught in the middle. At the international level, Morris has made two appearances for the U.S., making his debut earlier this year in a 2-1 loss to Serbia. The fact that he played in two friendlies for the U.S. means his international options are still open. But if he plays in either the CNL or the Concacaf Gold Cup later this summer he will find himself cap-tied because he will have played in an official competition. The U.S. is set to square off against Mexico in the CNL semifinals on June 15.
"It's tough. I've got family from the U.S., I've got family from Canada," he said in an exclusive interview with ESPN. "But then there's also the sense of playing and going to a World Cup. There's a lot on my mind right now. I don't think I have an answer in terms of what I'm going to do, or what I'm thinking of. So my only answer is I have time and this is a big decision for me and I don't need to be rushed because this is a big decision for my career."
When asked if he might wait to decide beyond this summer, Morris indicated that is a possibility.
"I think if the thought comes to me, then I think I'd love for it to come to me before summer, so I can take part in as much as I can," he said. "But yeah, if it doesn't, then I'm fine with that as well. It's a three-and-a-half year process to the World Cup."
The U.S. has had considerable success recruiting dual nationals, with Alejandro Zendejas and Folarin Balogun as the two most recent examples. Several of the successful recruitment efforts have come at Mexico's expense, including Zendejas and Ricardo Pepi. Rarer have been the battles with Canada, though Ayo Akinola and Jonathan David chose Canada over the U.S. in recent years.
Morris said that Canada first reached out a couple of months ago, and indicated the midfielder would "play an important" role in what they're trying to achieve.
"They've done really well so far and they've constantly gotten better and grown," Morris said about Canada. "I know the results didn't show at the World Cup, but getting to the World Cup for Canada. as a country, was a big step in the right direction."
One source with knowledge of the situation said that Canada "wants Morris bad" and view the Crew midfielder as potentially playing right away. That said, Morris would have to climb past a few players on the Canada midfield depth chart to get playing time. While retirement for the ageless Atiba Hutchinson beckons, Jonathan Osorio, Stephen Eustaquio, Mark-Anthony Kaye and Samuel Piette are all still in the mix. The competition with the U.S. is arguably stiffer, with the likes of Tyler Adams, Weston McKennie, Yunus Musah, Kellyn Acosta and Luca de la Torre all coming off seasons that saw them take part in the 2022 World Cup in Qatar.
Morris added that like Canada, he has remained in touch with U.S. interim manager Anthony Hudson.
"He values me, the same as Canada," he said about Hudson. "They value me and they see that I play an important role for them. And the U.S. would definitely be more of a long-term journey in terms of working my way up, a longer process in terms of working into that roster that went to the World Cup. But I'm all for it, and I'm all for working for something and that makes it just as fun to achieve it."
One advantage the U.S. has, in addition to having already called Morris up, is that the player is looked upon as likely having a big role for the U.S. ahead of the 2024 Olympic Games in Paris - which is a U-23 tournament with three overage players - with the U.S. qualifying for the first time since 2008 while Canada missed out.
"It's an important competition, and whether it's the Olympic team or whether it's a national team playing a friendly against Mexico, it all means the same to me," he said. "It's an honor and it always comes with a big weight to it in terms of representing not just a club in a city and a town, but representing a whole country. So it's definitely been on my mind and it has come up multiple times and I'd love to take part in it."
Morris has emerged as one of the best young midfielders in MLS after recovering from a torn ACL that forced him to miss almost the entire 2021 season. He bounced back with 28 appearances in all competitions in 2022. Morris has played in all 12 of Columbus' league games so far in 2023 and has chipped in with three goals. The U.S. is expected to announce its CNL final roster in early June.