Major League Soccer marks its return to action with a full slate of weekend games to kick off the 2013 campaign.
Coming off an offseason full of roster moves, each team’s coaches, players and fanbases are eager to see how their squad will fare in the new year.
Here’s your game-by-game guide to this weekend’s action.
Both Philadelphia and Sporting KC come into the 2013 season with retooled lineups, so it won’t be shocking if this game starts with an extended feeling out period.
Sporting lost Roger Espinoza to Wigan Athletic and loaned out Kei Kamara to Norwich City, but also picked up New England Revolution castoff Benny Feilhaber.
Philadelphia picked up forwards Sebastian Le Toux and Conor Casey and is looking to cut ties with exiled midfielder Freddy Adu as quickly as possible.
Philadelphia Union boasts some of the best players in MLS—the key for their campaign in 2013 is whether or not they can put it all together.
Finishing dead last in the Eastern Conference last year, new Toronto FC head coach Ryan Nelsen has his work cut out for him.
It won’t help Toronto that they are making the long road trip to Vancouver where they will face a gritty Whitecaps squad looking to compete with the big boys of MLS in 2013.
Despite the fact that Toronto brought in defensive reinforcements in the offseason in Gale Agbossoumonde and Danny Califf, they will face a Whitecaps squad with some solid attacking talent in Darren Mattocks, Kenny Miller and Omar Salgado.
This rematch of the 2012 Eastern Conference Finals should have United champing at the bit. With a fully fit Chris Pontius and Dwayne De Rosario, United will also have considerably more firepower than they did the last two times these teams met last fall.
The Dynamo, however, also have the advantages of home field and a lineup stacked with MLS stars.
The game should be an intense battle and could also be the matchup MLS fans are once again watching in the Eastern Conference finals seven months from now.
Both FC Dallas and the Colorado Rapids will be hoping for better campaigns in 2013 as both squads missed the MLS playoffs in 2012.
The Rapids offloaded Omar Cummings, Jeff Larentowicz and Conor Casey and will likely struggle again in 2013.
FC Dallas lost Brek Shea to Stoke City, but after a sophomore campaign in which Shea struggled and had a public falling out with Schellas Hyndman, some Dallas fans might not be sad he left.
Dallas brought in Kenny Cooper and Eric Hassli but will also need George John back at his best to be truly competitive in the Western Conference.
With teams like the Galaxy, San Jose, RSL and Seattle still expected to be at the top of the Western Conference, the battle between FC Dallas and Colorado—not just this weekend, but all season long—just might be for the fifth and final playoff spot in the conference.
The Montreal Impact make the long trip to Seattle to open up their MLS season and it could be an even longer flight home if they take a beating from the Sounders.
Montreal heads into the season relying on two 36-year-olds, Alessandro Nesta and Marco Di Vaio, to lead their back and front lines, respectively.
Seattle, on the other hand, finished 2012 third in the very competitive Western Conference and has hopes of playing for the MLS Cup this season.
Although Seattle lost Fredy Montero, they still have Eddie Johnson, Brad Evans, Osvaldo Alonso and Michael Gspurning as the core of their team and added MLS star Shalrie Joseph to their midfield.
Add to that Seattle’s great home atmosphere and it could be a very long night for the Impact.
Columbus makes the trip to Los Angeles for this match as the Crew head into the 2013 campaign knowing that literally every point matters over the course of a season—they missed the 2012 playoffs by a single point.
How Chivas USA plays in 2013 is the biggest question in the league, as their squad has been completely rebuilt from their disastrous 2012 campaign.
If Chivas can produce the exciting, attacking play with the Mexican flavor they are hoping for, it may encourage other teams to move away from the direct style the league has been based on for many years.
This one is a complete toss-up.
Chicago will make the long trip to Los Angeles to face the Galaxy at the Home Depot Center with new Fire signings Joel Lindpere and Jeff Larentowicz in tow.
After winning the title in 2011, the Galaxy had a very slow start in 2012 and, missing Landon Donovan and David Beckham, the Galaxy could once again be primed for a post-championship hangover.
Don’t be shocked if the Fire steal a point, or even all three, on the road.
This is one of the most enticing matches of the weekend as Caleb Porter’s new-look Timbers take on one of the most star-studded lineups in Major League Soccer.
Nobody expects Porter to be able to pull off implementation of his attacking, possession-oriented style in Week 1, and the Red Bulls should be hungry after last year’s playoff disappointment.
In 2012, the Earthquakes had the highest goal total of any team in the league, while Real Salt Lake boasted the league’s third-best defense.
The Earthquakes are loaded with talent including Victor Bernardez, Steve Beitashour, Justin Morrow, Chris Wondolowski, Steven Lenhart and Alan Gordon.
RSL’s defense relies on the likes of Nat Borchers, Tony Beltran, Kyle Beckerman and Nick Rimando to keep them in matches, but their attack lacks punch. New signing Robbie Findley adds some speed to their attack, but in eight years as a professional footballer, Findley has only scored more than six goals in a season on one occasion.
RSL’s U.S. U-20 star Luis Gil is also headed back to the team after helping the U.S. qualify for the U-20 World Cup on Tuesday.
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