Marquee men: The key player for all 23 MLS clubs in 2018

Ira L. Black - Corbis / Corbis Sport / Getty

As the 2018 MLS season nears kickoff, theScore picks out a key player to keep an eye out for in each of the 23 teams competing this season.

- Eastern Conference -

Atlanta United

Ezequiel Barco. The Five Stripes added to an already fearsome attacking trio with the 18-year-old Barco, who was also linked with Atletico Madrid. He wasn't cheap at a reported $15 million, but that's the price you pay for a rising star.

Chicago Fire

Bastian Schweinsteiger. The German gave the Fire midfield just the punch it needed to compete with the best of 'em, and Schweinsteiger will be motivated to see the Windy City complete its rebirth with some silverware.

Columbus Crew SC

Wil Trapp. As owner Anthony Precourt ponders moving the club to Austin, Texas, many important players have already jumped ship, save for the team's homegrown captain Trapp. His calming presence in center midfield is now vital.

D.C. United

Yamil Asad. One team's non-exercised contract option is another team's marquee signing, we suppose. Asad enjoyed a bright debut season in Atlanta, and will now occupy the wing in the U.S. capital with renewed purpose.

Montreal Impact

Ignacio Piatti. A lot of important players left Montreal during the offseason, but Argentine winger Piatti remains the focal point for good reason. His 17 goals accounted for nearly 40 percent of the team's total tally in 2017.

New England Revolution

Krisztian Nemeth. During his time in Kansas City, Nemeth proved himself a potent striker, notching 11 goals in 29 tilts. Now with the Revs, the Hungarian will take on goal-scoring duty in a team that might soon lose Lee Nguyen.

New York City FC

David Villa. No player is more important to New York City FC than Villa. The 36-year-old is entering his twilight years and will be desperate to lift the MLS Cup. But don't let his age fool you - he scored 24 times last season, after all.

New York Red Bulls

Alejandro "Kaku" Romero. It seemed to take ages for the Red Bulls to lock down their man, but they now have a new No. 10 to replace Sacha Kljestan. Due to the nature of his role, all eyes will be on Kaku to produce and perform.

Orlando City

Justin Meram. One of the departed Crew SC stars from 2018, Meram joins fellow MLS regulars Dom Dwyer and Kljestan in a revamped squad. The Iraq international enjoyed his best-ever season in 2017, but can he build on it?

Philadelphia Union

David Accam. Speed and dynamism were sorely lacking in the Union attack, making the trade for 27-year-old Ghanaian winger Accam a big improvement to Jim Curtin's side. We're still not sure how Philly even pulled off this trade.

Toronto FC

Michael Bradley. Say what you will about Sebastian Giovinco, Jozy Altidore, and Victor Vazquez - all leading stars in their own right - but no one player is more important to the Reds' cause than their captain and midfield anchor.

- Western Conference -

Colorado Rapids

Axel Sjoberg. For a team that prided itself on its stingy defense in 2016, the Rapids were leaky in 2017, seemingly forgetting their fundamentals. Sjoberg is this team's best defender, and will need to step up and lock things down again.

FC Dallas

Roland Lamah. For whatever reason, Dallas endured a rough 2017, but it will look to bounce back in 2018 with contributions from star players like Lamah. He was a bright spot with 11 goals and three assists in 32 matches last year.

Houston Dynamo

Alberth Elis. After scoring against Minnesota, "La Panterita" donned the Black Panther mask and showed his claws - a goal celebration that sums up just how damn cool the Honduran winger is. Just like the film, Elis is one to watch.

Los Angeles FC

Carlos Vela. Mexico striker Vela isn't just a leading star, but a dangerous attacking presence around whom Bob Bradley can build this new team. He brings 66 goals in 218 La Liga tilts for Real Sociedad over seven seasons.

LA Galaxy

Ola Kamara. Plucked out of Crew SC, Kamara brings the potential to find the back of the net with the sort of regularity that this team lacked last season. The Norwegian is a poacher, and all the Galaxy had before him were supply routes.

Minnesota United

Kevin Molino. In a team boasting few difference-makers, Molino is a talented, attack-minded player who can find the back of the net regularly while helping his teammates do the same. That element is vital in Adrian Heath's side.

Portland Timbers

Diego Valeri. The league's 2017 MVP is also one of the most dangerous and creative attacking players around. He's only the second player in MLS to score more than 20 goals while recording at least 10 assists in a single season.

Real Salt Lake

Albert Rusnak. Slovakia international Rusnak is the man around whom the RSL attack is built, and while there will be questions regarding the players he's meant to connect with, there are none regarding his own ability.

San Jose Earthquakes

Magnus Eriksson. Chris Wondolowski may be the main man, but new striker Eriksson may just usurp him by year's end. Alongside Danny Hoesen and Valeri Qazaishvili, the Swede ushers in a new-look attack for Mikael Stahre.

Seattle Sounders

Nicolas Lodeiro. With Jordan Morris out for the year, Lodeiro will need to take on even more of the attacking impetus for the Sounders in 2018. Luckily, the Uruguayan has all the quality to do so, if he can maintain his best form.

Sporting Kansas City

Felipe Gutierrez. Chile international Gutierrez brings pedigree and a new kind of skill set to the Sporting KC midfield, which Peter Vermes will appreciate. The left-footed attacker has a penchant for dribbling and can create goals, too.

Vancouver Whitecaps

Kendall Waston. The Costa Rican center-back is a fan favorite in Vancouver, and for good reason. His timely reads of attacking plays - coupled with a strong, physical approach to defending - makes him both reliable and resilient.

(Photos courtesy: Getty Images)

Marquee men: The key player for all 23 MLS clubs in 2018
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