For an American club that did not make it to the CCL knockout rounds there are only three major trophies to be won. Each MLS side from the USA can win the MLS Cup, the Supporters' Shield and the US Open Cup. The next way to get into the CCL is to have the best regular season record of the Conference that didn't have the Shield winner. Seattle Sounders FC has not done those things for some time now.
Sounder at Heart staff is fairly confident that should change. But the competition is pretty stiff. No longer are the Portland Timbers a soccer joke. Every single staffer expects both Portland and Seattle to make the playoffs. Neither LA nor RSL get 100% Playoff support from SaH, both come in at 11 of 12 respondents thinking they will be in the second season. Dallas, San Jose and Chivas USA (yep!) are the only teams to get more than one writer/photog/podcaster thinking they will qualify.
For the actual trophies a full 50% see Seattle making an Open Cup run, almost certainly powered by the improved depth in roster spots 12-20. Only Houston got more than one mention in that trophy race.
Rave Green glasses are less intense in the Shield race. Five see Seattle earning it. Four go with the Timbers (this is a theme). Sporting, Galaxy and Toronto each got a vote.
MLS Cup is always wide open. It doesn't matter which Conference is stronger any team can make a Playoff run. Sounders FC are again the favorite (4); Portland is again second (3) and LA gets two. Houston, New England and Red Bull all get a nod as well.
In total ten teams are seen as trophy contenders. Staff was not polled on the Canadian Championship.
Seattle's roster may be improved, particularly when compared to where it was at the start of 2013, but so have other teams around the league. The contest for silverware is going to be as tough as ever and the primary competition is our Cascadian brethren to the south.
That hasn't been true since 2007, which happens to be the last year that Seattle won a Double. Seattle faces Portland twice on the road (April 5th and August 24th) and once at home (July 13th an expected full stadium match). All are on national TV.