America's World Cup rooting interest: Russia?

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With the right to stage soccer's greatest showpiece up for grabs and the 2018 and 2022 World Cups to be allocated in December, these are nervous times for the bidding nations. Every fresh development is being scrutinized intensely by FIFA inspectors and the world soccer media.

You might think, therefore, that the emergence of traditional political rival and fellow contender Russia as a strong frontrunner for 2018 would spell bad news for the United States' chances of hosting another World Cup anytime soon. Not so, according to a senior aide to one of the members of the 24-man FIFA panel that will ultimately decide the host of the next two tournaments.

"If I was the USA I would be praying that Russia wins 2018," the aide said in a telephone conversation with Yahoo! Sports, speaking on condition of anonymity. "That would put the Americans in phenomenal shape for 2022."

And here is the good news for the U.S. organizers: Just a few months out, the Russian case is looking stronger and stronger and it has steadily gained momentum due to pledges of multibillion dollar government spending on stadiums and infrastructure.

"You cannot deny Russia if they bid for something," FIFA president Sepp Blatter said at a press conference last week. "They are more than a country. They are a big continent, a big power."

So how can this possibly help the American bid?

The intricacies of the bidding process could fill a weighty tome but in short, here are the reasons why the USA – which is still in the running for 2018 but has 2022 as a much more realistic target – should be silently cheering on its former Cold War adversary instead of the other major contender, England.

According to the aide, it is all down to how your bid is perceived. England and the U.S. are "safe bets" with good stadiums and infrastructure in place. Russia, along with the bid from Australia (likely to be USA's chief rival for 2022), have never hosted a World Cup and are seen as "more enlightened, but riskier" propositions. Furthermore, they are seen as being more remote and difficult (read: expensive) for fans to reach.

While FIFA likes to take its message around the globe, it is thought that at least one "safe bet" bid is needed once the bidding is finalized in December, but not necessarily two.

"It would be no surprise to see Russia followed by the USA," the aide said. "Just like England followed by Australia would make sense.

"[But] you must remember that the decision is made by 24 men who all have their own ideas. What might make sense to the general public might not be what FIFA is looking for."

Villa still searching for right coach

Aston Villa's coaching situation didn't get any less murky over the weekend as a 6-0 defeat at Newcastle appeared to put the kibosh on interim boss Kevin MacDonald's chances of being given the job full time.

With no obvious contenders raising their hand, Villa finds itself the victim of timing after Martin O'Neill quit just days before the start of the new English Premier League season. One legitimate option, Mark Hughes, had just accepted the Fulham job. Another, Martin Jol, will realistically only put himself in contention if his current team, Ajax, is knocked out of the Champions League qualifying stage against Shakhtar Donetsk this week.

And then there is USA head coach Bob Bradley, who made positive comments about Villa over the weekend but revealed his contact with the club had gone no further than a preliminary approach. As previously revealed on Yahoo! Sports, Villa does not consider Bradley a serious option at this point and he is more likely to renew his U.S. national team contract.

A show of respect

A classy gesture from New York Red Bulls veteran Carl Robinson, who refused to celebrate when scoring against his former team Toronto FC last weekend, has been returned in kind.

Toronto fan Chris Jenkins and a group of supporters have chipped in to produce a special plaque which they will present to Robinson in honor of his gesture.

New soccer flick

Keep an eye out for an outstanding soccer documentary/movie "Pelada," which features former college soccer players Luke Boughen and Gwendolyn Oxenham as they travel 25 countries with two backpacks and one soccer ball in search of street games.

Producer Ryan White said that the most surreal experience of the trip was bribing officials to be allowed into a Bolivian prison to play in a notorious pick-up game. I won't give too much away, but if you love soccer it is well worth a look.

A special screening and a Q&A with the directors will be held at The Royal Theatre in Los Angeles next Tuesday (Aug. 31).