It's finally here: That time of year where our power rankings really don't matter. From here on out, what we think is totally irrelevant as the best teams will be decided on the field. With that said, here's how we felt the teams stacked up heading into the playoffs. Unless otherwise noted, the words are mine.
1. San Jose Earthquakes (1.00; 1.00): Since vaulting to the top of the Supporters' Shield standings in mid-summer, the San Jose Earthquakes have played some of their best soccer of the season. Unbeaten at Buck Shaw Stadium for the entire season, the Quakes closed out the year with a nine game unbeaten streak and finished with their best points total in franchise history. Considering the team's +29 mark in goal differential, +11 better than second best Seattle and paced comfortably by Chris Wondolowski's MLS single season record tying 27 goals contribution (3 more goals than the entire Chivas USA team), no other team in the league comes close to matching the year put together by the Earthquakes. - Quake, Rattle and Goal
2. Sporting Kansas City (2.06; 2.00): Their defense will go down in history as one of the best in league history. That makes them a wonderful contrast to the Earthquakes, who have one of the greatest offenses.
3. Seattle Sounders (3.81; 3.62): Frankly, this seems a little high for a team with the seventh most points in the league. Still, no one doubts the talent they have on the offensive side of the ball and they've quietly put together the second best defense in the league.
4. Real Salt Lake (4.31; 4.08): Sealing the second-place seed in the Western Conference after a boring draw over Vancouver, RSL heads into the playoffs with the joint-best five-game form in MLS. If they play to the defensive strengths that have re-emerged late in the season, they stand a strong chance in the playoffs. - RSL Soapbox
5. D.C. United (5.25; 5.92): There's only one team that's riding a seven-game unbeaten streak into the playoffs. With or without Dwayne De Rosario, D.C. United is getting it done on the field, thanks to a more conservative philosophy from Ben Olsen and the improved defensive play of Dejan Jakovic, Brandon McDonald, and a few stellar performances from Bill Hamid. They might not have the same talent as the New York Red Bulls, but there's no reason to think United can't represent its conference in the MLS Cup Final. - Black and Red United
6. LA Galaxy (6.00; 6.92): Landon Donovan and David Beckham logged significant minutes in the season-finale and look ready to go for the playoffs. The question still remains whether or not their defense can keep up with their high-flying offense, but the talent is there and now mostly healthy.
7. New York Red Bulls (6.75; 6.92): Closed out the season with a very convincing 3-0 win over the Union on the road. Thierry Henry apparently wasn't very impressed. If the Red Bulls ever play up to his standards, watch out.
8. Chicago Fire (7.31; 6.77): The Fire wasted chance after chance against DC United and paid for it. Instead of being #2 seed, we now have a 1 game play-in for our playoff lives against the Dynamo on Wednesday. If the Fire want to go far, they have to figure out how to consistently put scoring opportunities into the net. - Hot Time in Old Town
9. Houston Dynamo (8.38; 7.77): In the last game of the regular season Head Coach Dominic Kinnear elected to go with a 'B' squad and rested the majority of his starters. This tactic usually comes back to bite the team in the rear-end, but the game was meaningless and you can't fault 'The Dom' for resting key guys. Playoffs, here we come! - Dynamo Theory
10. Columbus Crew (10.44; 10.23): Easily the most deserving team to miss the playoffs. As long as they can keep the key parts together, they should be poised for a strong season in 2013.
11. Vancouver Whitecaps (11.69; 11.92): Being the first Canadian team to make the MLS playoffs sounds a lot cooler than it really is and they hardly inspired any confidence with the way they backed in. They say they learned some lessons in the season-closing 0-0 tie with RSL. We shall see.
12. Montreal Impact (12.25; 12.08): The season is finally over, over too soon from Joey Saputo , Jesse Marsch until the fans. After a hard fought season in which the expansion clicked in mid-season, the bad results in the spring came back to haunt the club. The season finale had a sour taste with a 1-0 loss to the New England Revolution. With so many chances for the home team, soccer karma was going to be come back and haunt the team. It was felt during the game by many at Stade Saputo and in front of their TV screens. - Mount Royal Soccer
13. FC Dallas (12.44; 12.31): Made an impressive run to get back into the playoff picture, but only have themselves to blame after failing to win any of their final three games. Will have some big decisions to make in the offseason, none of them bigger than George John, who is now out of contract.
14. New England Revolution (14.75; 15.85): Hard to know what to think of this season. Undeniably some positive steps, but at the end of the day not much to show for it. What they do with Benny Feilhaber, who seems to have fallen out of favor with Jay Heaps, has to be the biggest offseason question.
15. Philadelphia Union (14.94; 14.23): Quietly put together a nice run at the end of the season, despite falling well short of the playoffs. John Hackworth seems to have them going in the right direction, but their young core needs to be supplemented by some legitimate veterans.
16. Colorado Rapids (15.69; 15.69): Oscar Pareja probably did enough to warrant another year, but it was not by a very wide margin. Hopefully, Jaime Castrillon and Martin Rivero will be back, which gives them a strong base to build around.
17. Portland Timbers (16.00; 15.85): If you'd like to know what is so frustrating about this team consider that they went undefeated against the Earthquakes (1-0-2) and lost all three of their matches against Chivas USA. Caleb Porter has his work cut out for him, but there's no reason they can't be back in the playoff hunt next year.
18. Chivas USA (18.00; 18.08): Chivas USA waited until the very end of the season to make it interesting, as they scored two goals in the final four minutes to get a 2-2 draw against FC Dallas Sunday. The result was a surprise, but there will be many, many changes to this team and management this offseason. It will be interesting to see if Chivas can get back to winning ways in 2013. - The Goat Parade
How the poll works: Each voter ranks the teams from 1-19. The teams are then ordered by average, with the lowest average going first and so on. The editor then splits the rankings into five tiers, looking for natural breaks in the averages. We then pick some kind of group of songs to theme them to.
Who participated: Jeremiah Oshan (SB Nation, soccer); Aaron Campeau (SB Nation, soccer); Ryan Rosenblatt (SB Nation, soccer); Drew Epperley (SB Nation, soccer); Jason Anderson (SB Nation, soccer); Phillip Quin (SB Nation, soccer); Martin Shatzer (Black and Red United); Scott Kessler (Brotherly Game); Matt Montgomery (RSL Soapbox); Robert Jonas (Quake, Rattle and Goal); Daniel Robertson (Big D Soccer); Sean Ringrose and Zach Woosley (Dynamo Theory); Dave Clark and Josh Yockey (Sounder at Heart); Duncan Fletcher (Waking the Red), Steve Stoehr (The Bent Musket); Ben Schneider (Once a Metro); Alicia Ratterree (The Goat Parade); Brenton Walters (The Vancouver Whitecaps Offside); Geoff Gibson (Stumptown Footy); Sofiane Benzaza (Mount Royal Soccer); Rudy Gomez and Ryan Sealock (Hot Time In Old Town).