Starting XI: Plenty of news to digest in lead-up to MLS Cup

11) What are you thankful for?

It’s not uncommon to come across strained emotions among MLS fans this time of year, with several teams’ campaigns having just concluded in heartbreaking fashion and non-playoff clubs bracing for offseason changes. Just remember that in the big picture, we live in promising times for North American soccer.

Three for Thursday: A league in bloom is reason for thanks

10) Might MLS ever work over Thanksgiving?

As you recover from collective national pigout, consider whether this sport could ever work its way into your holiday plans. What some call “season creep” has now taken MLS Cup past Turkey Day – could postseason matches someday be a part of this long weekend’s rituals?

9) Will Chivas USA’s identity shift this winter?

Turning from turkey to Goats: The potential ramifications of ownership and management turnover will not truly take shape for some time to come. At the moment, though, the rebuilding club’s search for the right formula of principles and personnel looks like one of the offseason’s leading topics.

Chivas owner says team will reconnect with Guadalajara

8) Are the Red Bulls really changing their DNA?

Though his club has not always shown enduring commitment to its Homegrowns in the past, soon after his arrival new RBNY sporting director Andy Roxburgh expressed a desire for the team to carry a stronger local flavor. Moving away from a long-running fondness for overseas talent would constitute a notable development around Red Bull Arena.

Made in America: Red Bulls focus on domestic talent, coach

7) Will a women’s pro league pull it off on take three?

Wednesday brought further details of the new women’s league being developed by US Soccer for 2013, including the revelation that the Portland Timbers will be administering the team in that city. Other MLS links may surface in the coming months as Sunil Gulati and other executives search for a sustainable formula.

6) Will an American Export make a deep run in UEFA Champions League?

The world’s glitziest club competition represents one of the final frontiers for US players. The success of Schalke 04 and Málaga assures this year’s knockout stages of a decent Yank presence in the form of Jermaine Jones and Oguchi Onyewu, respectively. Can their squads keep pace with the European aristocracy?

American Exports: Diskerud bests Boyd in Europa League

5) Did Beckham steal the MLS Cup show, or shine a bigger spotlight on it?

Win or lose, star or sideshow, almost everyone has an opinion on the globe-trotting Englishman, and his decision to announce that MLS Cup will be his Galaxy finale is no exception. Now a sizeable portion of the lead-up to the big game will focus on his Stateside legacy, though it may be a win-win given the extra buzz his swansong will garner across the planet.

The Throw-In: Open letter to LA Galaxy's David Beckham

4) Where is Becks headed?

“Answers on a postcard, please,” as the old saying goes. The Englishman’s coyly expressed desire for “one last challenge” as a player has prompted no end of guesswork and rumor-mongering. Australia? Scotland? France? A sensational homecoming to England? He’s always had a knack for getting the world talking.

Beckham moving on from MLS, but promises he'll be back

3) Will post-Beckham MLS look any different?

We’ll spend years debating the full extent of the Galaxy star’s transformative effect on the league, though he undoubtedly leaves it in better health than he found it. Mainstream media hubbub and attendance at LA road games could dip a bit next season, but the overall quality and reputation of MLS is likely to continue growing.

2) Who will be 100 percent healthy for the big game in Carson?

The two-week span between the Conference Championships and MLS Cup allows all of us to focus on stuffing ourselves this weekend and provides the league time for logistical preparations. It also gives the likes of Landon Donovan, Ricardo Clark and Calen Carr precious time to heal their injuries as they seek to make an impact next Saturday.

Houston's Clark hoping for MLS Cup appearance... finally

1) How will the Dynamo make this year’s final different from the last?

Same teams, same venue, same stakes: Houston has their work cut out to keep the Galaxy from winning a second straight cup. Next week’s visitors will have to impose their preferred tempo on the match – and get the ball to their chief creators Brad Davis (who missed MLS Cup 2011 because of injury) and Boniek García.