2012 Record: 17-11-6, 57 points, 4th in East
Top returners: GK Sean Johnson, D Arne Friedrich, D Austin Berry, M Patrick Nyarko, M Logan Pause, F Sherjill McDonald, F Chris Wolfe.
Key additions: M Joel Lindpere, M Jeff Larentowicz.
Key losses: M Pavel Pardo, M Alvaro Fernandez, F Dominic Oduro.
Against Sounders: @ Seattle, September 7
Will make the playoffs if: They continue their upward trend. The midfield additions of Lindpere and Larentowicz give Chicago more balance than they had in 2012 and they were a strong team that year. Defensively, Johnson and Berry will only get better, particularly under the guidance of the veteran Friedrich.
Will miss the playoffs if: Depth becomes an issue. They are strong at the top of their depth chart, but may take a dip once they get beyond the 15th or 16th player.
2012 Record: 15-12-7, 52 points, 6th in East
Top returners: GK Andy Gruenebaum, D Chad Marshall, M Eddie Gaven, M Tony Tchani, F Federico Higuain, F Jairo Arrieta.
Key additions: D Tyson Wahl, D Glauber, F Dominic Oduro.
Key losses: GK Will Hesmer, D Sebastian Miranda, M Dilly Duka.
Against Sounders: @ Columbus, August 31
Will make the playoffs if: Marshall can stay healthy and Higuain can continue the tear he closed the season with. Marshall is a pivotal veteran presence in a Columbus defense that played surprisingly well in the absence of longtime backstop Will Hesmer last year. The addition of Higuain midseason changed their fortunes dramatically and nearly put them in the playoffs. With Glauber and Oduro helping on either end of the field, they can only improve on that standing.
Will miss the playoffs if: Gruenebaum can’t match his breakout season in 2012. He did as well as you could expect in his first full season as starter and will need to show that it was no fluke in 2013.
2012 Record: 17-10-7, 58 points, 2nd in East
Top returners: GK Bill Hamid, M Dwayne De Rosario, M Nick DeLeon, M Chris Pontius, M Perry Kitchen, F Hamdi Salihi, F Lionard Pajoy.
Key additions: D James Riley, M John Thorrington, F Rafael, F Carlos Ruiz.
Key losses: M Branko Boskovic, M Andy Najar, F Maicon Santos.
Against Sounders: @ Seattle, July 3
Will make the playoffs if: The offense can click together. With this selection of goalscorers on his side, De Rosario is going to have a field day. DeLeon and Pontius are only getting better and now with young Brazilian Rafael and MLS veteran Ruiz joining the fold along with Salihi and Pajoy, they have plenty of weapons to choose from.
Will miss the playoffs if: They can’t find the defense to match that scoring punch. The addition of the steady Riley at right back should help and Hamid is among the rising American goalkeepers, but they were a -10 goal differential on the road in 2012. That has to be better.
2012 Record: 14-9-11, 53 points, 5th in East
Top returners: GK Tally Hall, D Corey Ashe, M Brad Davis, M Boniek Garcia, M Luiz Camargo, F Will Bruin, F Brian Ching, F Calen Carr.
Key additions: D Eric Brunner, M Andrew Driver, F Jason Johnson, F Omar Cummings.
Key losses: D Andre Hainault, M Colin Clark.
Against Sounders: @ Houston, August 17
Will make the playoffs if: They can carry their success at home onto the road. Houston was unstoppable at 11-0-6 at BBVA Compass Stadium in 2012, but was just 3-9-5 on the road. If Garcia can turn a few of those losses into draws or wins – all of a sudden they are comfortably in the postseason.
Will miss the playoffs if: Other teams in the East take a dramatic turn in a positive direction. Houston has the talent and should make the playoffs and only won’t if other teams play better than they should.
2012 Record: 12-16-6, 42 points, 7th in East
Top returners: D Alessandro Nesta, D Mateo Ferrari, M Patrice Bernier, M Davy Arnaud, M Felipe Martins, M Sanna Nyassi, F Marco Di Vaio, F Andrew Wenger.
Key additions: M Andrew Pisanu.
Key losses: M Lamar Neagle.
Against Sounders: @ Seattle, March 2
Will make the playoffs if: The quality can match the work rate. Montreal was built around a workmanlike group of players and have since added a slew of talented Europeans last year. If those two camps can mesh, 2013 will be a good year for the Impact.
Will miss the playoffs if: New coach Marco Schallibaum can’t navigate the MLS waters. There are few examples of European-based coaches succeeding in MLS. With a potent roster, Schallibaum could prove the exception, but that has historically proven to be a big “if.”
New England Revolution
2012 Record: 9-17-8, 35 points, 9th in East
Top returners: D Chris Tierney, D AJ Soares, M Kelyn Rowe, M Lee Nguyen, M Diego Fagundez, M Juan Toja, F Saer Sene, F Jerry Bengtson.
Key additions: D Andrew Farrell, D Jose Goncalves, D Andy Dorman, M Scott Caldwell, F Chad Barrett.
Key losses: M Benny Feilhaber.
Against Sounders: @ Seattle, April 13
Will make the playoffs if: The defensive additions answer the call. Farrell has been very good in preseason and as the top pick in the SuperDraft can be expected to play a lot right away. They have the offensive pieces to improve over their woeful scoring mark in 2012, particularly when Sene returns from his knee injury, so if they can make the strides defensively, they will be strong.
Will miss the playoffs if: They don’t get help from the rest of the East. On paper, it’s a strong conference and only got stronger this year, generally. The Revs improved over last year, but it still might not be enough.
New York Red Bulls
2012 Record: 16-9-9, 57 points, 3rd in East
Top returners: D Heath Pearce, D Connor Lade, M Dax McCarty, M Tim Cahill, F Thierry Henry.
Key additions: D Kosuke Kimura, D Jamison Olave, M Juninho, M Eric Alexander, M Jonny Steele, F Fabian Espindola.
Key losses: D Rafa Marquez, D Wilman Conde, M Jan Gunnar Solli, M Teemu Tainio, M Joel Lindpere, F Sebastien Le Toux, F Kenny Cooper.
Against Sounders: @ Seattle, September 29
Will make the playoffs if: Everyone plays to their capabilities. In Cahill and Henry, they have some of the top talent in MLS. Add in a player of the caliber of Juninho and they have all of the tools in place to succeed and succeed big.
Will miss the playoffs if: The talent in place can’t co-exist. Olave and Espindola come from a team in Salt Lake where individual players sacrificed personal accomplishments for the greater good of the team. Infusing that in New York’s locker room, where they have perpetually underachieved. Last year, they struggled defensively – that will need to improve too.
2012 Record: 10-18-6, 36 points, 8th in East
Top returners: GK Zac MacMath, D Bakary Soumare, D Sheanon Williams, M Michael Farfan, M Amobi Okugo, F Jack McInerney.
Key additions: D Jeff Parke, F Sebastien Le Toux, F Conor Casey.
Key losses: D Carlos Valdes, M Gabriel Gomez.
Against Sounders: @Philadelphia, May 4
Will make the playoffs if: The veteran savvy of Parke, Le Toux and Casey can lead the young talent in place. Parke is coming off of his best season in MLS and Le Toux is returning to Philly, where he was an MVP finalist in 2010 after his breakout season. He hasn’t been able to match that since, but there’s no reason to think he can’t approach that form.
Will miss the playoffs if: The young players don’t progress as much as hoped. MacMath hasn’t proven himself yet, but with Parke and a healthy Soumare in front of him, this is the year to do it. McInerney needs to take the next step as well.
Sporting Kansas City
2012 Record: 18-7-9, 63 points, 1st in East
Top returners: GK Jimmy Nielsen, D Matt Besler, D Aurelien Collin, D Chance Myers, M Graham Zusi, M Bobby Convey, F CJ Sapong, F Teal Bunbury.
Key additions: D Ike Opara, M Benny Feilhaber, F Claudio Bieler.
Key losses: D Michael Harrington, M Roger Espinoza, F Kei Kamara.
Against Sounders: @ Kansas City, May 8
Will make the playoffs if: Their defense holds as tight as it did in 2012. Though they feature high-flying speed in the attacking positions, they still play quite conservatively, particularly on the road. Considering the success of those tactics in 2012, they would be foolish to take a different approach.
Will miss the playoffs if: The drive of Espinoza and Kamara isn’t replaced. They were the heart and soul of the team and while Kamara may return after his loan expires, his goal against Everton for Norwich on Saturday may convince them to keep the dynamic scorer. Losing both would be crushing.
2012 Record: 5-21-8, 23 points, 10th in East
Top returners: D Ashtone Morgan, D Richard Eckersley, M Luis Silva, F Danny Koevermans.
Key additions: D Danny Califf, M Gale Agbossoumonde, F Justin Braun.
Key losses: M Torsten Frings, F Ryan Johnson, F Joao Plata, F Eric Hassli.
Against Sounders: @ Toronto, August 10
Will make the playoffs if: They can piece together one or two more moves in the next few weeks or in the summer transfer window. Toronto has some building blocks in place and develops players from their Academy system, but still appear to be a player or two away from being true contenders. If they make those right moves, which they have proven willing to attempt in the past, they could surprise people this year.
Will miss the playoffs if: They don’t dramatically over-achieve. They have yet to reach the playoffs in their six-year history and they haven’t done anything to spark optimism for that trend to change with the roster in place right now. With Tuesday’s announcement that captain Torsten Frings retired, they also lost one of their best hopes for progress too.