With the Major League Soccer season kicking off this weekend, it's time to look at how the Eastern Conference shapes up, in order of predicted finish.
1. D.C. United
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It will be a good season if: Dwayne De Rosario, 34, hasn't lost a step. And if Carlos Ruiz, 33, still has his scoring touch, look out.
It will be a bad season if: Chris Pontius can't stay healthy. He did in 2012 and scored a career-high 12 goals.
Bottom line: Young coach Ben Olsen is bringing United back to prominence in MLS. Now about that stadium ...
2. Sporting Kansas City
It will be a good season if: Benny Feilhaber regains his form. He and Graham Zusi can be dangerous in midfield.
It will be a bad season if: Matt Besler and Aurelien Collin can't remain the best center back combo in the league.
Bottom line: Everything is up to date in Kansas City.
3. Houston Dynamo
It will be a good season if: Forward Will Bruin, in his third year in MLS, continues to develop into a top striker.
It will be a bad season if: Boniek Garcia and Brad Davis don't scare opposing teams in 2013 like they did in 2012.
Bottom line: Dominic Kinnear is one of the top coaches in the league.
4. Chicago Fire
It will be a good season if: Fourth-year goalkeeper Sean Johnson, 23, has a breakout season.
It will be a bad season if: The strike team of Chris Rolfe and Sherjill MacDonald doesn't produce. At least one of them needs to reach double digits in goals.
Bottom line: Once again this looks like a solid but not spectacular team. Right back remains uncertain.
5. Columbus Crew
It will be a good season if: Chad Marshall can stay healthy to anchor the back line and maybe score a few goals off set pieces.
It will be a bad season if: Federico Higuain isn't as good in 2013 as he was in 2012, when he was the best midseason acquisition in the league.
Bottom line: Given all the new faces, team chemistry is a question, and the imports have to adjust to MLS play.
6. Philadelphia Union
It will be a good season if: Sebastien Le Toux is as good in this tour in Philly as he was the last time he played there.
It will be a bad season if: Young players such as Amobi Okugo, Zac MacMath, Jack McInerney, Gabriel and Michael Farfan and Antoine Hoppenot don't continue to improve.
Bottom line: This could be the surprise team in MLS.
7. New York Red Bulls
It will be a good season if: Tim Cahill has the kind of season the New Yorkers are paying him DP money to have.
It will be a bad season if: Heath Pearce and Jamison Olave can't solve the Red Bulls' defensive woes.
Bottom line: The Red Bulls look like a team in disarray, and not for the first time. Coach Mike Petke was hired as a stopgap when New York's first choice fell through.
8. Montreal Impact
It will be a good season if: Last year's No. 2 overall draft pick, Andrew Wenger, finds a position and becomes a star.
It will be a bad season if: Thirty-something imports Matteo Ferrari, Alessandro Nesta, Marco Di Vaio don't play up to their reputations.
Bottom line: After a solid expansion season in 2012, the Impact is starting over again.
9. New England Revolution
It will be a good season if: Jerry Bengston, who looked like a find at forward last season, can be better this season.
It will be a bad season if: Youngsters such as Diego Fagundez, top overall draft pick Andrew Farrell and Kelyn Rowe don't develop quickly.
Bottom line: Coach Jay Heaps continues to rebuild.
10. Toronto FC
It will be a good season if: We're not even going to try to fool you into thinking Toronto can be good with this roster.
It will be a bad season if: Danny Koevermans and Torsten Frings can't recover from injury. So far it's not looking good -- again.
Bottom line: No team has done more to alienate a great fan base. New team president Kevin Payne and new coach Ryan Nelsen have a lot of work to do.
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