What: 2011 MLS Cup Final
Who: Los Angeles Galaxy vs Houston Dynamo
Where: Home Depot Center, Carson, California, United States
When: Sunday 20th November 21:00 US Eastern Time (02:00 UK Time)

Given David Beckham’s track record, it should come as no surprise that he has pushed Los Angeles Galaxy to a place in the MLS Cup, setting up the possibility of a dramatic Hollywood ending to his stint in California. Standing in the Englishman’s way are Houston Dynamo, cast in the role of villain and travelling to the Home Depot Center, home of the Galaxy, to cut short the farewell party. The 2011 MLS Cup is set to be a classic.

Critics will be quick to condemn Beckham’s five-year spell in the MLS as a failed mission to increase football’s national profile in the United States – but the MLS Cup final presents a chance for him to bow out on top and pocket the silverware that he has craved since leaving Real Madrid. With a number of European clubs clamouring for his signature – Paris Saint-Germain and Tottenham Hotspur chief among them – all the signs point to this being Beckham’s final game in a Galaxy shirt.

The former Manchester United man has certainly played his part en route to this decisive moment. The Galaxy brushed aside Thierry Henry and New York Red Bulls in the opening round, winning both legs of the tie, and then had too much class for plucky Real Salt Lake in the Western Conference final. Beckham took centre stage against Real Salt Lake, setting up Robbie Keane’s first goal and playing a key role in his second. While injuries and loan spells with AC Milan have derailed the star in previous campaigns, he has barely put a foot wrong this season.

The Galaxy are by no means a one man show, however. Landon Donovan and Keane spearhead a hugely dangerous attack while Mike Magee has chipped in with vital goals in the playoffs. Juninho, who partners Beckham in midfield, is a talented all-round player and the back four have exceeded expectations thus far. This is a group that won the Supporters’ Shield, awarded to the regular season top dogs, and have been saddled with the tag of favourites – and the pressure that goes with it – throughout the playoffs. The MLS Cup final will be no different.

But Houston are unlikely to back down from the challenge. The Dynamo know their way around the post-season, winning the MLS Cup back-to-back in 2006 and 2007, and midfielders Brad Davis and Corey Ashe remain from the victorious 2007 squad – as does manager Dominic Kinnear. This wily core has been supplemented by the youthful exuberance of striker Will Bruin, 22, and midfielder Danny Cruz, 21.

While other contenders had top goalscorers with double digit tallies, the Dynamo had three players tied on five goals at the top of their scoring chart – and that sums up the team’s efficient style. Houston finished the regular season with 12 wins, nine losses and 13 draws, scoring 45 and conceding 41. It is not a record that will strike fear into the Galaxy – who managed 19 wins and 18 more points than the Dynamo – but the fact that seven different players scored at least four goals tells the story of a well-balanced team.

A solid performance in Philadelphia, in which Davis showcased his vast talent, went a long way towards securing Houston’s spot in the Eastern Conference final, but they were underdogs in many fans’ eyes heading into their clash with Sporting Kansas City, who had topped the table in the East during the regular season. Instead, the Dynamo produced another disciplined performance on the road, grabbing a 2-0 victory despite an injury to Davis.

Davis’ injury is the biggest concern for Kinnear heading into the MLS Cup, with the midfielder almost certain to miss the game. His absence would make Houston’s challenge all the tougher and take away from their threat on the counter attack and at set-pieces, but the Dynamo have shown they have the spirit to embrace their role as underdogs and party poopers. The Galaxy have had an injury blow of their own, with striker Chad Barrett ruled out due to a sprained ankle.

The most recent regular season clash between the two sides – on the final day of the regular season – highlighted exactly why Houston have the personnel to push the Galaxy all the way. It could also be an intriguing coaching battle as Kinnear and Los Angeles counterpart Bruce Arena know how to handle the big occasion, given that both have lifted the trophy twice.

Arena has made his post-season philosophy crystal clear, saying: "We’re going to go about it the same way. We’ve been successful doing what we’re doing, why would we change anything? If we needed to change anything at this time, I would think we were doing something wrong.” Kinnear, meanwhile, is happy to be proving his critics wrong: “Three months ago, I don’t think a lot of people thought we would be here at the end or close to it,” he admitted.

Make no mistake – with or without Davis, Houston Dynamo present the toughest challenge of the playoffs for Los Angeles Galaxy and it promises to be a memorable night. All eyes will be on Beckham as he brings down the curtain on his MLS adventure – and it would come as no surprise if the former England captain scores or sets up the decisive goal in a Galaxy victory.