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Top Five Storylines of 2013

With the release of the 2013 MLS schedule Wednesday morning, Insider Matt Gaschk takes a look at five of the top storylines to come this season.

On Wednesday, Major League Soccer announced the 2013 regular season schedule

The Sounders FC will open the season at home on March 2 against the Montreal Impact and close the year at CenturyLink Field on October 27 against the LA Galaxy.

In between, there are many key dates to keep in mind on the 34-game schedule for the Sounders.  Here are the Top 5 Schedule Storylines of 2013.

Cascadia Cup 

The Sounders played four matches in the Cascadia Cup on the road in 2012 – that schedule got flipped for the 2013 season and CenturyLink Field will host four matches against the Portland Timbers and Vancouver Whitecaps FC.

Portland got the lucky draw in 2012, hosting four home matches in Cascadia before playing a match on the road and, not coincidentally, won the Cascadia Cup with a 3-1-2 record, going 2-0-2 at home.  Seattle, meanwhile, played four matches on the road, going 2-0-0 at home and 0-1-3 on the road to finish second in the standings.

The home matches against Portland are March 16 and August 25, with the road match at Jeld-Wen Field on October 13.  Seattle will host Vancouver on June 8 and October 9 with their match at BC Place in between on July 6.

Revenge vs. LA

The Sounders got over a big hump in the postseason by ousting Real Salt Lake for their first series victory in the MLS Cup Playoffs.  Then, they fell behind 3-0 to the LA Galaxy in the first leg of the Western Conference Championship series at The Home Depot Center, eventually falling 4-2 on aggregate.

Seattle will have a chance to avenge that loss beginning May 26 at The Home Depot Center against what is sure to be a new-look Galaxy squad.  They will meet again in Carson, Calif., on September 21 before concluding the regular season at CenturyLink Field on October 27.  All three meetings will be on national television, with the May 26 match on ESPN2, the September 21 match on NBC Sports and the season finale on ESPN.

Back to Livestrong

Every time the Sounders have gone to Livestrong Sporting Park, the match has been memorable.

In their first match there in 2011, Mauro Rosales led a comeback charge to give Seattle a 2-1 victory with a 90th minute goal by Rosales, who then assisted on a stoppage time winner by Lamar Neagle to hand Sporting Kansas City their first home loss in their new stadium.

Last year, the Sounders returned to the site for the US Open Cup final, where a dramatic, controversial match ended with Kansas City lifting the trophy after a penalty shootout.

The lone meeting between the two sides will come on May 8 for one of only three mid-week games on the schedule all season.

Two trips to the East Coast

Last year, the Sounders traveled more than any team in MLS, playing road matches against DC United, the Montreal Impact, New England Revolution and New York Red Bulls.  This year, with those clubs all visiting CenturyLink Field, Seattle will play just two matches on the East Coast.

The first will come May 4 when the Sounders take on Jeff Parke, Sebastien Le Toux and the Philadelphia Union at PPL Park and the second will be August 10 at BMO Field against Toronto FC.

The other Eastern Conference road trips will include the aforementioned match against Sporting KC, the Houston Dynamo on August 17 and Columbus Crew on August 31.

Protecting home field

The Sounders posted their best ever home record in 2012 at 11-4-2 with a 0.65 goals against average and eight shutouts.  They also posted a MLS-record attendance figure at 43,144 per game.

This year, they will look to better those marks and scheduling may help along that line.  Only one of their first six home opponents and three of their first 12 made the playoffs in 2012.  In the final two months of the season, they will meet five straight playoff teams at home, but that early schedule could help the Sounders earn bunches of points in the standings.

Among their home opponents from the Eastern Conference, Montreal and the New England Revolution both missed the playoffs.  Of the Western Conference teams that Seattle will face twice at CenturyLink Field, Chivas USA, FC Dallas and the Portland Timbers all missed the postseason.