TL;DR: Man with too much time on his hands goes deep down the rabbit hole on a concept this sub already didn’t seem that enthusiastic about. If you really want to skip ahead, CTRL+F “verdict” and it’ll get you there. submitted by
Two days ago, u/MrPhillyj2wns
made a post asking whether USL should launch a D1 league
in order to compete in Concacaf. From the top voted replies, it appears this made a lot of people very angry and has been widely regarded as a bad move.
But I’ve been at home for eight weeks and I am terribly, terribly bored.
So, I present to you this overview of what the USL pyramid might look like if Jake Edwards got a head of steam and attempted to establish a USSF-sanctioned first division. This is by no means an endorsement of such a proposal or even a suggestion that USL SHOULD do such a thing. It is merely an examination of whether they COULD.
Welcome to the
First, there are some base-level assumptions we must make in this exercise, because it makes me feel more scientific and not like a guy who wrote this on Sunday while watching the Belarusian Premier League (Go BATE Borisov!).
(Known) USSF D1 league requirements:
- All D1 teams must comply with known USSF requirements for D1 leagues (more on that later).
- MLS, not liking this move, will immediately remove all directly-owned affiliate clubs from the USL structure (this does not include hybrid ownerships, like San Antonio FC – NYCFC). This removes all MLS2 teams but will not affect Colorado Springs, Reno, RGVFC and San Antonio.
- The USL will attempt to maintain both the USL Championship and USL League One, with an eventual mind toward creating the pro/rel paradise that is promised in Relegations 3:16.
- All of my research regarding facility size and ownership net worth is correct – this is probably the biggest leap of faith we have to make, since googling “NAME net worth” and “CITY richest people” doesn’t seem guaranteed to return accurate results.
- The most a club can increase its available seating capacity to meet D1 requirements in a current stadium is no more than 1,500 seats (10% of the required 15,000). If they need to add more, they’ll need a new facility.
- Let’s pretend that people are VERY willing to sell. It’s commonly acknowledged that the USL is a more financially feasible route to owning a soccer club than in MLS (c.f. MLS-Charlotte’s reported $325 million expansion fee) and the USSF has some very strict requirements for D1 sanctioning. It becomes pretty apparent when googling a lot of team’s owners that this requirement isn’t met, so let’s assume everyone that can’t sells to people who meet the requirements.
- League must have 12 teams to apply and 14 teams by year three
- Majority owner must have a net worth of $40 million, and the ownership group must have a total net worth of $70 million. The value of an owned stadium is not considered when calculating this value.
- Must have teams located in the Eastern, Central and Pacific time zones
- 75% of league’s teams must be based in markets with at a metro population of at least 1 million people.
- All league stadiums must have a capacity of at least 15,000
The ideal club candidate for the USL Premiership will meet the population and capacity requirements in its current ground, which will have a grass playing surface. Of the USL Championship’s 27 independent/hybrid affiliate clubs, I did not find one club that meets all these criteria as they currently stand.
Regarding turf fields, the USSF does not have a formal policy regarding the ideal playing surface but it is generally acknowledged that grass is superior to turf. 6 of 26 MLS stadiums utilize turf, or roughly 23% of stadiums. We’ll hold a similar restriction for our top flight, so 2-3 of our top flight clubs can have turf fields. Seem fair?
Capacity is going to be the biggest issue, since the disparity between current requirements for the second-tier (5,000) and the first tier (15,000) is a pretty massive gap. Nice club you have there, triple your capacity and you’re onto something. As a result, I have taken the liberty of relocating certain (read: nearly all) clubs to new grounds, trying my utmost to keep those clubs in their current markets and –importantly--, ensure they play on grass surfaces.
So, let’s do a case-by-case evaluation and see if we can put together 12-14 teams that meet the potential requirements, because what else do you have to do?
For each club’s breakdown, anything that represents a chance from what is currently true will be underlined. Candidate: Birmingham Legion FC
Location (Metro population): Birmingham, Ala. (1,151,801)
Time zone: Central
Stadium (playing surface, capacity): Legion Field (FieldTurf, 71,594)
Potential owner: Stephens Family (reported net worth $4 billion)
Notes: Birmingham has a pretty strong candidacy. Having ditched the 5,000-seater BBVA Field for Legion Field, which sits 2.4 miles away, they’ve tapped into the city’s soccer history. Legion Field hosted portions of both the men’s and women’s tournaments at the 1996 Olympics, including a 3-1 U.S. loss to Argentina that saw 83,183 pack the house. The Harbert family seemed like strong ownership contenders, but since the death of matriarch Marguerite Harbert in 2015, it’s unclear where the wealth in the family is concentrated, so the Stephens seem like a better candidate. The only real knock that I can think of is that we really want to avoid having clubs play on turf, so I’d say they’re on the bubble of our platonic ideal USL Prem. Candidate: Charleston Battery
Location (Metro population): Charleston, S.C. (713,000)
Time zone: Eastern
Stadium (playing surface, capacity): Johnson Hagood Stadium (Grass, ~14,700)
Potential owner: Anita Zucker (reported net worth $3 billion)
Notes: Charleston’s candidacy isn’t looking great. Already disadvantaged due to its undersized metro population, a move across the Cooper River to Johnson Hagood Stadium is cutting it close in terms of capacity. The stadium, home to The Citadel’s football team, used to seat 21,000, before 9,300 seats on the eastern grandstand were torn down in 2017 to deal with lead paint that had been used in their construction. Renovation plans include adding 3,000 seats back in, which could hit 15,000 if they bumped it to 3,300, but throw in a required sale by HCFC, LLC (led by content-creation platform founder Rob Salvatore) to chemical magnate Anita Zucker, and you’ll see there’s a lot of ifs and ands in this proposal. Candidate: Charlotte Independence
Location (Metro population): Charlotte, N.C. (2,569, 213)
Time zone: Eastern
Stadium (playing surface, capacity): Jerry Richardson Stadium (Turf, 15,314)
Potential owner: James Goodnight (reported net worth $9.1 billion)
Notes: Charlotte ticks a lot of the boxes. A move from the Sportsplex at Matthews to UNC-Charlotte’s Jerry Richardson stadium meets capacity requirements, but puts them on to the dreaded turf. Regrettably, nearby American Legion Memorial Stadium only seats 10,500, despite a grass playing surface. With a sizeable metro population (sixth-largest in the USL Championship) and a possible owner in software billionaire James Goodnight, you’ve got some options here. The biggest problem likely lies in direct competition for market share against a much better-funded MLS Charlotte side due to join the league in 2021. Candidate: Hartford Athletic
Location (Metro population): Hartford, Conn. (1,214,295)
Time zone: Eastern
Stadium (playing surface, capacity): Pratt & Whitney Stadium (Grass, 38,066)
Potential owner: Ray Dalio (reported net worth $18.4 billion)
Notes: Okay, I cheated a bit here, having to relocate Hartford to Pratt & Whitney Stadium, which is technically in East Hartford, Conn. I don’t know enough about the area to know if there’s some kind of massive beef between the two cities, but the club has history there, having played seven games in 2019 while Dillon Stadium underwent renovations. If the group of local businessmen that currently own the club manage to attract Dalio to the table, we’re on to something. Candidate: Indy Eleven
Location (Metro population): Indianapolis, Ind. (2,048,703)
Time zone: Eastern
Stadium (playing surface, capacity): Lucas Oil Stadium (Turf, 62,421)
Potential owner: Jim Irsay (reported net worth of $3 billion)
Notes: Indy Eleven are a club that are SO CLOSE to being an ideal candidate – if it weren’t for Lucas Oil Stadium’s turf playing surface. Still, there’s a lot to like in this bid. I’m not going to lie, I have no idea what current owner and founder Ersal Ozdemir is worth, but it seems like there might be cause for concern
. A sale to Irsay, who also owns the NFL Indianapolis (nee Baltimore) Colts, seems likely to keep the franchise there, rather than make a half-mile move to 14,230 capacity Victory Field where the AAA Indianapolis Indians play and expand from there. Candidate: Louisville City FC
Location (Metro population): Louisville, Ky. (1,297,310)
Time zone: Eastern
Stadium (playing surface, capacity): Lynn Family Stadium (Grass, 14,000, possibly expandable to 20,000)
Potential owner: Wayne Hughes (reported net worth $2.8 billion)
Notes: I’m stretching things a bit here. Lynn Family stadium is currently listed as having 11,700 capacity that’s expandable to 14,000, but they’ve said that the ground could hold as many as 20,000 with additional construction, which might be enough to grant them a temporary waiver from USSF. If the stadium is a no-go, then there’s always Cardinal Stadium, home to the University of Louisville’s football team, which seats 65,000 but is turf. Either way, it seems like a sale to someone like Public Storage founder Wayne Hughes will be necessary to ensure the club has enough capital. Candidate: Memphis 901 FC
Location (Metro population): Memphis, Tenn. (1,348,260)
Time zone: Central
Stadium (playing surface, capacity): Liberty Bowl Stadium (Turf, 58,325)
Potential owner: Fred Smith (reported net worth $3 billion)
Notes: Unfortunately for Memphis, AutoZone Park’s 10,000 seats won’t cut it at the D1 level. With its urban location, it would likely prove tough to renovate, as well. Liberty Bowl Stadium more than meets the need, but will involve the use of the dreaded turf. As far as an owner goes, FedEx founder Fred Smith seems like a good local option. Candidate: Miami FC, “The”
Location (Metro population): Miami, Fla. (6,158,824)
Time zone: Eastern
Stadium (playing surface, capacity): Riccardo Silva Stadium (FieldTurf, 20,000)
Potential owner: Riccardo Silva (reported net worth $1 billion)
Notes: Well, well, well, Silva might get his wish for top-flight soccer, after all. He’s got the money, he’s got the metro, and his ground has the capacity. There is the nagging issue of the turf, though. Hard Rock Stadium might present a solution, including a capacity of 64,767 and a grass playing surface. It is worth noting, however, that this is the first profile where I didn’t have to find a new potential owner for a club. Candidate: North Carolina FC
Location (Metro population): Durham, N.C. (1,214,516 in The Triangle)
Time zone: Eastern
Stadium (playing surface, capacity): Carter-Finley Stadium (Grass/Turf, 57,583)
Potential owner: Steve Malik (precise net worth unknown) / Dennis Gillings (reported net worth of $1.7 billion)
Notes: We have our first “relocation” in North Carolina FC, who were forced to trade Cary’s 10,000-seat WakeMed Soccer Park for Carter-Finley Stadium in Durham, home of the NC State Wolfpack and 57,583 of their closest friends. The move is a whopping 3.1 miles, thanks to the close-knit hub that exists between Cary, Durham and Raleigh. Carter-Finley might be my favorite of the stadium moves in this exercise. The field is grass, but the sidelines are artificial turf. Weird, right? Either way, it was good enough for Juventus to play a friendly against Chivas de Guadalajara there in 2011. Maybe the move would be pushed for by new owner and medical magnate Dennis Gillings, whose British roots might inspire him to get involved in the Beautiful Game. Straight up, though, I couldn’t find a net worth for current owner Steve Malik, though he did sell his company MedFusion for $91 million in 2010, then bought it back for an undisclosed amount and sold it again for $43 million last November. I don’t know if Malik has the juice to meet D1 requirements, but I suspect he’s close. Candidate: Pittsburgh Riverhounds SC
Location (Metro population): Pittsburgh, Penn. (2,362,453)
Time zone: Eastern
Stadium (playing surface, capacity): Heinz Field (Grass, 64,450)
Potential owner: Henry Hillman (reported net worth $2.5 billion)
Notes: I don’t know a ton about the Riverhounds, but this move in particular feels like depriving a pretty blue-collar club from its roots. Highmark Stadium is a no-go from a seating perspective, but the Steelers’ home stadium at Heinz Field would more than meet the requirements and have a grass surface that was large enough to be sanctioned for a FIFA friendly between the U.S. WNT and Costa Rica in 2015. As for an owner, Tuffy Shallenberger (first ballot owner name HOF) doesn’t seem to fit the USSF bill, but legendary Pittsburgh industrialist Henry Hillman might. I’m sure you’re asking, why not the Rooney Family, if they’ll play at Heinz Field? I’ll tell you: I honestly can’t seem to pin down a value for the family. The Steelers are valued at a little over a billion and rumors persist that Dan Rooney is worth $500 million, but I’m not sure. I guess the Rooneys would work too, but it’s a definite departure from an owner in Shallenberger who was described by one journalist as a guy who “wears boots, jeans, a sweater and a trucker hat.” Candidate: Saint Louis FC
Location (Metro population): St. Louis, Mo. (2,807,338)
Time zone: Central
Stadium (playing surface, capacity): Busch Stadium (Grass, 45,494)
Potential owner: William DeWitt Jr. (reported net worth $4 billion)
Notes: Saint Louis has some weirdness in making the jump to D1. Current CEO Jim Kavanaugh is an owner of the MLS side that will begin play in 2022. The club’s current ground at West Community Stadium isn’t big enough, but perhaps a timely sale to Cardinals owner William DeWitt Jr. could see the club playing games at Busch Stadium, which has a well established history of hosting other sports like hockey, college football and soccer (most recently a U.S. WNT friendly against New Zealand in 2019). The competition with another MLS franchise wouldn’t be ideal, like Charlotte, but with a big enough population and cross marketing from the Cardinals, maybe there’s a winner here. Wacko idea:
If Busch doesn’t pan out, send them to The Dome. Sure, it’s a 60k turf closed-in stadium, but we can go for that retro NASL feel and pay homage to our nation’s soccer history. Candidate: Tampa Bay Rowdies
Location (Metro population): Tampa, Fla. (3,068,511)
Time zone: Eastern
Stadium (playing surface, capacity): Raymond James Stadium (Grass, 65,518)
Potential owner: Edward DeBartolo Jr. (reported net worth $3 billion)
Notes: This one makes me sad. Despite having never been there, I see Al Lang Stadium as an iconic part of the Rowdies experience. Current owner Bill Edwards proposed an expansion to 18,000 seats in 2016, but the move seems to have stalled out. Frustrated with the city’s lack of action, Edwards sells to one-time San Francisco 49ers owner Edward DeBartolo Jr., who uses his old NFL connections to secure a cushy lease at the home of the Buccaneers in Ray Jay, the site of a 3-1 thrashing of Antigua and Barbuda during the United States’ 2014 World Cup Qualifying campaign. Breather. Hey, we finished the Eastern Conference teams. Why are you still reading this? Why am I still writing it? Time is a meaningless construct in 2020 my friends, we are adrift in the void, fueled only by brief flashes of what once was and what may yet still be. Candidate: Austin Bold FC
Location (Metro population): Austin, Texas (2,168,316)
Time zone: Central
Stadium (playing surface, capacity): Darrel K Royal – Texas Memorial Stadium (FieldTurf, 95,594)
Potential owner: Michael Dell (reported net worth of $32.3 billion)
Notes: Anthony Precourt’s Austin FC has some unexpected competition and it comes in the form of tech magnate Michael Dell. Dell, were he to buy the club, would be one of the richest owners on our list and could flash his cash in the new first division. Would he have enough to convince Darrel K Royal – Texas Memorial Stadium (I’m not kidding, that’s its actual name) to go back to a grass surface, like it did from ’96-’08? That’s between Dell and nearly 100,000 UT football fans, but everything can be had for the right price. Candidate: Colorado Springs Switchbacks FC
Location (Metro population): Colorado Springs, Colo. (738,939)
Time zone: Mountain
Stadium (playing surface, capacity): Falcon Stadium (FieldTurf, 46,692)
Potential owner: Charles Ergen (reported net worth $10.8 billion)
Notes: Welcome to Colorado Springs. We have hurdles. For the first time in 12 candidates, we’re back below the desired 1 million metro population mark. Colorado Springs actually plans to build a $35 million, 8,000 seat venue downtown that will be perfect for soccer, but in our timeline that’s 7,000 seats short. Enter Falcon Stadium, home of the Air Force Academy Falcons football team. Seems perfect except for the turf, right? Well, the tricky thing is that Falcon Stadium is technically on an active military base and is (I believe) government property. Challenges to getting in and out of the ground aside, the military tends to have a pretty grim view of government property being used by for-profit enterprises. Maybe Charles Ergen, founder and chairman of Dish Network, would be able to grease the right wheels, but you can go ahead and throw this into the “doubtful” category. It’s a shame, too. 6,035 feet of elevation is one hell of a home-field advantage. Candidate: El Paso Locomotive FC
Location: El Paso, Texas
Time zone: Mountain
Stadium (playing surface, capacity): Sun Bowl (FieldTurf, 51,500)
Potential owner: Paul Foster (reported net worth $1.7 billion)
Notes: God bless Texas. When compiling this list, I found so many of the theoretical stadium replacements were nearly serviceable by high school football fields. That’s insane, right? Anyway, Locomotive don’t have to settle for one of those, they’ve got the Sun Bowl, which had its capacity reduced in 2001 to a paltry 51,500 (from 52,000) specifically to accommodate soccer. Sure, it’s a turf surface, but what does new owner Paul Foster (who is only the 1,477th wealthiest man in the world, per Forbes) care, he’s got a team in a top league. Side note:
Did you know that the Sun Bowl college football game is officially, through sponsorship, the Tony the Tiger Sun Bowl? Why is it not the Frosted Flakes Sun Bowl? Why is the cereal mascot the promotional name of the football game? What are you doing, Kellogg’s? Candidate: Las Vegas Lights FC
Location: Las Vegas, Nev. (2,227,053)
Time zone: Pacific
Stadium (playing surface, capacity): Allegiant Stadium (Grass, 61,000)
Potential owner: Sheldon Adelson (reported net worth $37.7 billion)
Notes: Sin City. You had to know that the club that once signed Freddy Adu because “why not” was going to go all out in our flashy hypothetical proposal. Thanks to my narrative control of this whole thing, they have. Adelson is the second-richest owner in the league and has decided to do everything first class. That includes using the new Raiders stadium in nearby unincorporated Paradise, Nevada, and spending boatloads on high profile transfers. Zlatan is coming back to the U.S., confirmed. Candidate: New Mexico United
Location: Albuquerque, N.M.
Time zone: Mountain
Stadium (playing surface, capacity): Isotopes Park – officially Rio Grande Credit Union Field at Isotopes Park (Grass, 13,500 – 15,000 with expansion)
Potential owner: Maloof Family (reported net worth $1 billion)
Notes: New Mexico from its inception went deep on the community vibe, and I’ve tried to replicate that in this bid. The home field of Rio Grande Cr---I’m not typing out the whole thing—Isotopes Park falls just within the expansion rules we set to make it to 15,000 (weird, right?) and they’ve found a great local ownership group in the Lebanese-American Maloof (formerly Maalouf) family from Las Vegas. The only thing to worry about would be the metro population, but overall, this could be one of the gems of USL Prem. Candidate: Oklahoma City Energy FC
Location: Oklahoma City, Okla. (1,396,445)
Time zone: Central
Stadium (playing surface, capacity): Chickasaw Bricktown Ballpark (Grass, 13,066)
Potential owner: Harold Hamm (reported net worth $14.2 billion)
Notes: There’s a bright golden haze on the meadow and it says it’s time to change stadiums and owners to make it to D1. A sale to oil magnate Harold Hamm would give the club the finances it needs, but Chickasaw Bricktown Ballpark (home of the OKC Dodgers) actually falls outside of the boundary of what would meet capacity if 1,500 seats were added. Could the club pull off a move to Gaylord Family Oklahoma Memorial Stadium in Norman, Oklahoma – home of the Oklahoma Sooners? Maybe, but at 20 miles, this would be a reach. Candidate: Orange County SC
Location: Irvine, Calif. (3,176, 000 in Orange County)
Time zone: Pacific
Stadium (playing surface, capacity): Angels Stadium of Anaheim (Grass, 43,250)
Potential owner: Arte Moreno (reported net worth $3.3 billion)
Notes: You’ll never convince me that Rangers didn’t choose to partner with Orange County based primarily on its name. Either way, a sale to MLB Angels owner Arte Moreno produces a fruitful partnership, with the owner choosing to play his newest club out of the existing Angels stadium in OC. Another baseball conversion, sure, but with a metro population of over 3 million and the closest thing this hypothetical league has to an LA market, who’s complaining? Candidate: Phoenix Rising FC
Location: Phoenix, Ariz. (4,857,962)
Time zone: Arizona
Stadium (playing surface, capacity): State Farm Stadium (Grass, 63,400)
Potential owner: Ernest Garcia II (reported net worth $5.7 billion)
Notes: We’re keeping it local with new owner and used car guru Ernest Garcia II. His dad owned a liquor store and he dropped out of college, which is making me feel amazing about my life choices right now. Casino Arizona Field is great, but State Farm Stadium is a grass surface that hosted the 2019 Gold Cup semifinal, so it’s a clear winner. Throw in Phoenix’s massive metro population and this one looks like a lock. Candidate: Reno 1868 FC
Location: Reno, Nev. (425,417)
Time zone: Pacific
Stadium (playing surface, capacity): Mackay Stadium (FieldTurf, 30,000)
Potential owner: Nancy Walton Laurie (reported net worth $7.1 billion)
Notes: The Biggest Little City on Earth has some serious barriers to overcome, thanks to its low metro population. A sale to Walmart heiress Nancy Walton Laurie and 1.6 mile-move to Mackay Stadium to split space with the University of Nevada, Reno makes this bid competitive, but the turf surface is another knock against it. Candidate: Rio Grande Valley FC
Location: Edinburg, Texas (900,304)
Time zone: Central
Stadium (playing surface, capacity): McAllen Memorial Stadium (FieldTurf, 13,500 – 15,000 with expansion)
Potential owner: Alice Louise Walton (reported net worth $45 billion)
Notes: Yes, I have a second straight Walmart heiress on the list. She was the first thing that popped up when I googled “McAllen Texas richest people.” The family rivalry has spurred Walton to buy a club as well, moving them 10 miles to McAllen Memorial Stadium which, as I alluded to earlier, is a straight up high school football stadium with a full color scoreboard. Toss in an additional 1,500 seats and you’ve met the minimum, despite the turf playing surface. Candidate: San Antonio FC
Location: San Antonio, Texas (2,550,960)
Time zone: Central
Stadium (playing surface, capacity): Alamodome (FieldTurf, 64,000)
Potential owner: Red McCombs (reported net worth $1.6 billion)
Notes: I wanted to keep SAFC in the Spurs family, since the franchise is valued at $1.8 billion. That said, I didn’t let the Rooneys own the Riverhounds based on the Steelers’ value and it felt wrong to change the rules, so bring on Clear Channel co-founder Red McCombs. Toyota Field isn’t viable in the first division, but for the Alamodome, which was built in 1993 in hopes of attracting an NFL franchise (and never did), San Antonio can finally claim having *a* national football league team in its town (contingent on your definition of football). Now if only we could do something about that turf… Candidate: San Diego Loyal SC
Location: San Diego, Calif. (3,317,749)
Time zone: Pacific
Stadium (playing surface, capacity): SDCCU Stadium (formerly Qualcomm) (Grass, 70,561)
Potential owner: Phil Mickelson (reported net worth $91 million)
Notes: Yes, golf’s Phil Mickelson. The existing ownership group didn’t seem to have the wherewithal to meet requirements, and Phil seemed to slot right in. As an athlete himself, he might be interesting in the new challenges of a top flight soccer team. Toss in a move to the former home of the chargers and you might have a basis for tremendous community support. Candidate: FC Tulsa
Location: Tulsa, Okla. (991,561)
Time zone: Central
Stadium (playing surface, capacity): Skelly Field at H.A. Chapman Stadium (FieldTurf, 30,000)
Potential owner: George Kaiser ($10 billion)
Notes: I’m a fan of FC Tulsa’s rebrand, but if they want to make the first division, more changes are necessary. A sale to Tulsa native and one of the 100 richest men in the world George Kaiser means that funding is guaranteed. A move to Chapman Stadium would provide the necessary seats, despite the turf field. While the undersize population might be an issue at first glance, it’s hard to imagine U.S. Soccer not granting a waiver over a less than a 10k miss from the mark.
And that’s it! You made it. Those are all of the independent/hybrid affiliates in the USL Championship, which means that it’s time for our…
VERDICT: As an expert who has studied this issue for almost an entire day now, I am prepared to pronounce which USL Championships could be most ‘ready” for a jump to the USL Prem. A reminder that of the 27 clubs surveyed, 0 of them met our ideal criteria (proper ownership $, metro population, 15,000+ stadium with grass field).
Two of them, however, met almost all of those criteria: Indy Eleven and Miami FC. Those two clubs may use up two of our three available turf fields right from the outset, but the other factors they hit (particularly Silva’s ownership of Miami) makes them difficult, if not impossible to ignore for the top flight.
But who fill in the rest of the slots? Meet the entire 14-team USL Premier League: Hartford Athletic Indy Eleven Louisville City FC Miami FC North Carolina FC Pittsburgh Riverhounds SC Tampa Bay Rowdies Saint Louis FC San Antonio FC New Mexico United Phoenix Rising FC Las Vegas Lights FC Orange County SC San Diego Loyal SC
Now, I shall provide my expert rationale for each club’s inclusion/exclusion, which can be roughly broken down into four categories. Firm “yes” Hartford Athletic:
It’s a good market size with a solid stadium. With a decent investor and good community support, you’ve got potential here. Indy Eleven
: The turf at Lucas Oil Stadium is no reason to turn down a 62,421 venue and a metro population of over 2 million. Louisville City FC:
Why doesn’t the 2017 & 2018 USL Cup champion deserve a crack at the top flight? They have the market size, and with a bit of expansion have the stadium at their own SSS. LCFC, you’re in. Miami FC, “The”:
Our other blue-chip recruit on the basis of ownership value, market size and stadium capacity. Yes, that field is turf, but how could you snub Silva’s chance to claim victory as the first division 1 club soccer team to play in Miami? Pittsburgh Riverhounds SC:
Pittsburgh sacrificed a lot to be here (according to my arbitrary calculations). Their market size and the potential boon of soccer at Heinz Field is an important inclusion to the league. Saint Louis FC:
Willie hears your “Busch League” jokes, Willie don’t care. A huge market size, combined with the absence of an NFL franchise creates opportunity. Competition with the MLS side, sure, but St. Louis has serious soccer history and we’re willing to bet it can support two clubs. Tampa Bay Rowdies:
With a huge population and a massive stadium waiting nearby, Tampa Bay seems like too good of an opportunity to pass up for the USL Prem. Las Vegas Lights FC:
Ostentatious, massive and well-financed, Las Vegas Lights FC is everything that the USL Premier League would need to assert that it didn’t intend to play second fiddle to MLS. Players will need to be kept on a short leash, but this is a hard market to pass up on. Phoenix Rising FC:
Huge population, big grass field available nearby and a solid history of success in recent years. No brainer. San Diego Loyal SC:
New club? Yes, massive population in a market that recently lost an absolutely huge sports presence? Also yes. This could be the USL Prem’s Seattle. Cautious “yes” New Mexico United:
You have to take a chance on New Mexico United. The club set the league on fire with its social media presence and its weight in the community when it entered the league last season. The market may be slightly under USSF’s desired 1 million, but fervent support (and the ability to continue to use Isotopes Park) shouldn’t be discounted. North Carolina FC
: Carter-Finley’s mixed grass/turf surface is a barrier, to be sure, but the 57,000+ seats it offers (and being enough to offset other fully-turf offerings) is enough to put it in the black. Orange County SC:
It’s a top-tier club playing in a MLB stadium. I know it seems unlikely that USSF would approve something like that
, but believe me when I say “it could happen.”
Orange County is a massive market and California likely needs two clubs in the top flight. San Antonio FC:
Our third and only voluntary inclusion to the turf fields in the first division, we’re counting on San Antonio’s size and massive potential stadium to see it through. Cautious “no” Birmingham Legion FC:
The town has solid soccer history and a huge potential venue, but the turf playing surface puts it on the outside looking in. Memphis 901 FC:
Like Birmingham, not much to dislike here outside of the turf playing surface at the larger playing venue. Austin Bold FC:
See the other two above. FC Tulsa:
Everything’s just a little bit off with this one. Market’s slightly too small, stadium has turf. Just not enough to put it over the top. Firm “no” Charleston Battery:
Small metro and a small potential new stadium? It’s tough to say yes to the risk. Charlotte Independence:
A small new stadium and the possibility of having to compete with an organization that just paid over $300 million to join MLS means it’s best for this club to remain in the USL Championship. Colorado Springs Switchbacks FC:
When a club’s best chance to meet a capacity requirement is to host games at a venue controlled by the military, that doesn’t speak well to a club’s chances. El Paso Locomotive FC:
An undersized market and a turf field that meets capacity requirements is the death knell for this one. Oklahoma City Energy FC:
Having to expand a baseball field to meet requirements is a bad start. Having to potentially play 20 miles away from your main market is even worse. Reno 1868 FC:
Population nearly a half-million short of the federation’s requirements AND a turf field at the hypothetical new stadium makes impossible to say yes to this bid. Rio Grande Valley FC:
All the seat expansions in the world can’t hide the fact that McAllen Memorial Stadium is a high school stadium through and through.
Here’s who’s left in the 11-team Championship: Birmingham Legion FC Charleston Battery Charlotte Independence Memphis 901 FC Austin Bold FC Colorado Springs Switchbacks FC El Paso Locomotive FC Oklahoma City Energy FC Reno 1868 FC Rio Grande Valley FC FC Tulsa
With MLS folding the six affiliates it has in USL League One, the league is a little bit thin (especially considering USSF’s requirements for 8 teams for lower level leagues), but seems definitely able to expand up to the necessary numbers with Edwards’ allusions to five new additions this year: Chattanooga Red Wolves SC Forward Madison FC Greenville Triumph SC Union Omaha Richmond Kickers South Georgia Tormenta FC Tucson Format of Assorted Leagues –
This (like everything in this post) is pure conjecture on my part, but here are my thoughts on how these leagues might function in a first year while waiting for additional expansion. USL Premier –
We’ll steal from the 12-team Scottish Premiership. Each club plays the other 11 clubs 3 times, with either one or two home matches against each side. When each club has played 33 matches, the top six and bottom six separate, with every club playing an additional five matches (against each other team in its group). The top club wins the league. The bottom club is automatically relegated. The second-bottom club will enter a two-legged playoff against someone (see below) from the championship playoffs. USL Championship --
11 clubs is a challenge to schedule for. How about every club plays everyone else three times (either one or two home matches against each side)? Top four clubs make the playoffs, which are decided by two-legged playoffs. The winner automatically goes up. I need feedback on the second part – is it better to have the runner-up from the playoffs face the second-bottom club from the Premiership, or should the winner of the third-place match-up get the chance to face them to keep drama going in both playoff series? As for relegation, we can clearly only send down the last place club while the third division is so small. USL League One –
While the league is so small, it doesn’t seem reasonable to have the clubs play as many matches as the higher divisions. Each club could play the other six clubs four times – twice at home and twice away – for a very equitable 24-match regular season, which would help restrict costs and still provide a chance to determine a clear winner. Whoever finishes top of the table goes up.
And there you have it, a hypothetical look at how the USL could build a D1 league right now. All it would take is a new stadium for almost the entire league and new owners for all but one of the 27 clubs, who wouldn’t feel that their property would be massively devalued if they got relegated.
Well that’s our show. I’m curious to see what you think of all of this, especially anything that you think I may have overlooked (I’m sure there’s plenty). Anyway, I hope you’re all staying safe and well.
Continuing submitted by
Well, when the props fouled the third time, I suggested we call it a day, as we’d already made some 32 sea-kilometers. We were out on the fringes of the worst of the kelp forest beds, and after a good night’s sleep, we’d be ready to deploy bright and early and get some seismic data acquired and recorded.
But, first, there was the first night aboard ship. In a rusty old tin-can with few creature comforts, as the annual winter monsoon winds wane and the seas actually begin to settle slightly.
I took that as both good omens. The bitching and kvetching I head from the locals about the ‘abominable weather they had to endure’, even from the Coast Guard types, really struck me as uproariously funny.
I just chalked it up to being sequestered from the rest of the world for so long. Put these characters in the path of a Midwestern tornado, East Indian summer monsoon, or Siberian blizzard, and they’d shit themselves blind. I didn’t really think too much of it, although it became somewhat of a game when the imperialistic foreigners tried to one-up each other with horror stories from excursions past.
“No shit”, Dax said, “We were snowed in for a full fortnight.”
“No!” several of us recoiled in mock horror.
“Oh, yah, hey.” Dax continued, “It’s just great when blizzards snap the power lines, and all the toilets freeze. The house cat didn't die until we burned up all our wood. Considering we ate her raw, she tasted pretty good…”
Several of our handlers, a few in the Coast Guard and most of the Korean scientists reacted rather badly to Dax’s story; especially when it had been gorily translated.
Seeing this, Dax stood up, got the soju bottle, and asked if anyone needed a top-up. I asked while puffing away on a large Jamaican cigar if anyone needed a smoke.
At this point, Dax was winning. He had seven of the assembled crowd run to the rail to relieve themselves of our canned Chinese dinner.
Not ever one to shrink from a challenge, I related my second-hand story of my Brother-in-law, who was in the US Coast Guard for years and years. I waited for the green crowd to re-join us and regain what remained of their composure. I figured the quasi-military national Coast Guarders here would appreciate the tale.
Mine wasn’t a gory or shocking tale, just one of the incredible water conditions off the coast of California.
I waited until everyone was settled, drink in hand, and smokin’ ‘em if you got ‘em.
“Well”, I said, “It was on board a ship much like the one we’re currently on,” I said as a rascal wave broke over the railing in counterpoint. “About the same size as this vessel, but with smaller wheels. You know these Coast Guard shallow-water boys”, I chuckled. Always meaning to jab one group or another in the place where I know it stings.
Yeah, I’m a real bastard that way sometimes.
The Korean Coast Guarders sneered hardly at me; but not too hard. They liked my cigars, cigarettes, and open disbursement policy too much.
“Yeah, anyways”, I continued, “He was offshore California in one of the US Coast Guard cutters. It was a boat about 26 meters or so in length. They were out doing search and rescue after a mega-nasty storm blew in from the west and scuttled a sailing regatta race.”
I was drawing them in with my ‘just so’ story, nice and easy, until…
“Yeah, there were several capsized monohulls, catamarans and trimarans. Damn, these things were fucking yachts. Owned by rich idiots that almost knew how to sail but didn’t know enough to get out of the way of a fucking severe storm…”
I really had their attention with ‘soaking the rich’.
“Well, the waves grew and grew, but my Brother-in-laws's boat was built to handle severe weather. These patrol and rescue boat has the capability to roll over 360 degrees and self-right within 30 seconds. Like right now, you’d never even notice this degree rock and roll”, I said as I demonstrated with my cigar, tracing out tighter and tighter rolls, and higher degrees of rocking and rolling.
“They were approaching a capsized trimaran, but the waves kept growing and growing…” I said, leading by example and having them watch me with unblinking attention.
“The waves grew and grew, and normally you’d take these head-on. But that was impossible, because when afternoon came it was slashin' rain, in the face of a hurricane west wind. The boat rolled to the left, heeled, almost keeled, a then rolled the other way just as quickly.” I noted.
They followed me as I timed it with the heavings of our own boat, to the left…to the right…
“Then, just as they were about to reach upon the trimaran, a rogue wave! Out of nowhere”, I said, rocking and rolling along with our own little boat, “BAM
! Hit amidships! It didn’t roll once, it rolled twice!” I made great and magniloquent gestures of a tiny boat being savaged by a monstrous rogue sea wave.
I stood up, blew a great blue cloud of smoke towards the poop deck, and said, loudly, “Rolled over once. A full 360! Then rolled right over again. A full 720 degrees!” as I demonstrated what happened with my cigar and drink.
The eyes following me rolled and rolled as well. Some straight back into the owner’s head and some to the left, some to the right…it was like ‘Loose Slots’ night in Vegas, they were rolling and rolling.
And then racing for the rails. Topside to deliver the remains of their hearty canned dinners.
“Beat you, Dax!” I smiled as I sat back down, “I got nine with that at one. And two of them were Coasties!”
“Did that really happen?” Ivan asked.
“According to my Brother-in-law. But he’s an engineer if you know what I mean…” I smiled.
We concluded story night as we had drifted free of the kelp forest and the Captain of the boat decided he’d risk an anchorage for the night. The weather was ameliorating, the seas calming themselves down, and the wind dropping a couple of notches on the Beaufort Scale.
“Well, gents”, I said, “I need some air. The aroma down here of Chinese Aplo™ for dinner, those who didn’t make it to the rails, and the solitary head for the entire crew has lost its charm. If you’ll excuse me”, I said as I grabbed a bottle of ersatz vodka, and several cans of Taedonggang beer, “I’ll be on the aft deck; in my comfy chair and contemplating the wonder of it all.”
With that, I ventured up the stairs and out onto the aft deck.
Dax naturally followed and he found his own not-bolted-down deck chair. We had a constant flow of visitors, foreign and nationals alike. It was shaping up to be a fine night for being out under the stars, there was no light pollution at all. We sat in our chairs, drank our drinks, smoked our smokes, and argued the finer points of astronomy as seen from this part of the world.
I had several side chats with the scientists and academicians from the Korean side. They all had one thing on their minds. Well, one thing after cigars and cigarettes. They wanted Western scientific journals. They were actually trying to bribe me to get those copies, any age, any subject; of Science, AAPG Explorer, and SEPM Proceedings, anything of Western science as it is today. I said they were welcome to a couple of copies of Science and SPE journals I had brought with as an afterthought, for free. With 900 won to the dollar, they needed every won they could get. I wasn’t about to take anything for the free dissemination of knowledge.
However, if they saw it fit to buy me a drink or seven, I wouldn’t object.
In reality, I’d buy those as well.
We made secret pacts to meet at the hotel-casino the night before we left, whenever the fuck that would be. We had a lot of work before us as it stands. It won’t be for a few weeks, I reminded them.
They had no problem. If I could ask the other in the team if they’d do likewise, the appreciation would be palpable.
Great. Now I have to go get my field notebooks and make some more new entries.
Dax cratered around 0100. I elected to stay the night and sleep under the stars as the boat slowly rocked one way and rolled the other. It was quiet, dark as a tomb, and brilliantly lit up by the stellar backbone of the night once the clouds fumbled out. Tomorrow looked as if it were to be bright and sunny if the gentle westerlies had anything to say about the next day’s conditions.
The next day dawned early, bright, and ridiculously sunny as it usually does when the monsoons have departed and it had stopped raining.
“OK.”, I thought, “Time for a hearty breakfast. For someone else. I wonder what’s available here.”
I ventured down to the cold galley and there were several boxes of dry Chinese breakfast cereal, “Shredded Tweet” and the like, some sort of obviously aged bakery, and a case of Taedonggang beer.
“Hmmm”, I mused out loud, “Beer and rice crispies. Breakfast of champions.”
Dax walks in, rubbing his eyes. He sees me drowning my rice cereal in foamy ersatz milk.
“Reminds me of field camp!” I smiled as I chowed on the morning’s offerings.
After our ‘hearty’ breakfast, all the scientific parties gathered in the main stateroom. It was cramped, but the walls were magnetic and we could hang maps, well, charts actually since we’re well offshore now, and plots the day’s course.
Out in the Yellow Sea, we were supposedly over a subsurface, and by dint of being offshore, submarine, dome. Salt dome? Unlikely. Probably more of a shale dome
, which isn’t a bad thing when hunting for oil and gas.
Looking at the charts, I ask the locals what our current position was relative to the domal uplift.
After several long moments of silence, I asked again.
“Umm, guys”, I said, “If you’re not going to be forthcoming with something as simple as positional data, then turn this boat 1800’s
and take us back to shore. I am fed up, as are my team, with this tight-holing of the simplest of data when you are the knotheads that asked us here for help. We get paid either way, and I for one wouldn’t mind being paid triple to sit in the hotel’s basement and drink”
After telling the translator to translate that last part literally, I sat back, pulled out a really nasty cigar, and went through all the threatening moves of firing it up in the enclosed cabin.
“You will have to excuse us”, came the reply from one of the elders, “We are not used to dealing with oegugseon
“Are you used to following orders?” I asked brusquely.
“Of course!” came the near-unanimous reply.
“Great. Then consider this an order: You will relay the appropriate information when asked by any Westerner on this cruise. Consider it as coming from the Supreme Leader of this expedition.” I noted.
Using the term ‘Supreme Leader’ was both a bow to their current bad-hair-cut in charge and my desire to let them know I was serious as a kick to the scrotum about the whole fucking deal.
There were a couple of gasps and some consternatious talk, but eventually, one brave soul got up, walked over to the chart, and pointed to our relative location.
“There”, I added, “That wasn’t so hard, was it? Didn’t hurt in the least, did it?”
There were a few chuckles amongst our national colleagues, so I figured that was at least a little progress.
“OK, then”, I continued, “Volna? Ack? You’re up to bat.”
I turned the proceedings over to the geophysicists. They would devise the configuration of the towed array, our speed, direction, charge size, which was based on depth, and all the other geophysical flips and twists one has to do in order to acquire the best data.
This shit doesn’t come cheap. The Mesozoic-Paleozoic marine residual basin in the South Yellow Sea where these domes live is a potentially significant deep potential hydrocarbon reservoir. However, the imaging of the deep prospecting target is quite challenging due to the specific seismic-geological conditions. In the Central and Wunansha Uplifts, the penetration of the seismic wavefield is limited by the shallow high-velocity layers (HVLs) and the weak reflections in the deep carbonate rocks. With the conventional marine seismic acquisition technique, the deep weak reflection is difficult to image and identify. We confirm through numerical simulation that the combination of multi-level impulse source (i.e., explosive) array and extended cable used in the seismic acquisition is crucial for improving the imaging quality.
With that, we’re going to be recording a minimum of four stacks, with a receiver interval of 25 meters. The array will have a shot interval of 50 meters, with a 25 meter near offset, and a 2500 meter far offset. We will attempt to record 180 channels, off-end, with a sampling period of 0.5 seconds, and a record length of 5 seconds. We’ll sail the same course 4 times to verify previous records and attempt to add ‘fold’, i.e., extra data from the same point, to the overall records.
That’s the plan, at least.
Loads of preparation, logistics, and execution.
After a half an hour or so, both Volna and Ack are finished with the national scientists.
They set down their notebooks, pens, notes, and pointers; walk out of the meeting room and directly over to the galley.
“Hungry, fellas?” I inquire.
“Rock?”, Ack asks, “You have explosives here, right? Sink us. Just fucking sink us right now.” As he pours himself and Volna a stiff shot of real vodka.
“Uh, oh. Problems in Dreamland?” I ask, utilizing the derogatory name for the geophysical domain of exploration data.
“Un-be-fucking-believable.”, Volna adds.
“Your colloquial American is coming along well, Volna.” I snickered a bit.
“I learn from you”, he spat, “Cannot believe this. They don’t record while underway. They tow single array and stop. Then drop dynamite over side. They record. Then they do it again. Claim this gives them good fold. This is bullshit. You said devise program. HA! Take us to shore and let me teach them the fucking basics of geophysical acquisition. Then in a few years, we come back and do it right.”
“Oh, fuck”, I reply, wincing, “That bad?”
“Oh, no”, Ack continues, “It’s worse.” As he down 100 milliliters of booze in one draught and pours another for Volna and is own self, “No on-board demultiplexing. No on-board pre-processing. No-onboard QA/QC. No on-board anything. It’s fucking hopeless. Sink us, I’d rather take my chances with the sharks.”
do all that stuff or they won’t
do all that stuff,” I asked, expecting the worst.
“Oh, it might
be possible, with this museum-grade crap they call a computer they have on-board. It’s just time-consuming, tricky, and will need constant attention. But with this raft of sad-sacks, flub-a-dubs and third rate hobbyists?” Ack and Volna agree as one.
“Consider it job security”, I replied, “How about this? One test loop and we use that data to do what’s necessary; just once. Then we can say we’ve shown them the way. After that, I’ll leave it up to the National scientists.”
“Good thing we have 2 full days, Rock”, Volna said, “Because we do a single AC (acquisition) run, it’ll take the rest of the time to show these buggers how it’s done.”
“Ack? You agree?” I asked.
Ack agreed, in spades.
“OK, gentlemen”, I said, “Let’s make it so. About time, too. I haven’t blown anything up in a couple of weeks. I’m getting antsy. Let’s go tell them the good news.”
“NO! WE REFUSE!” was the cheery response from the nationals when Ack, Volna, and I laid out the rather lengthy program for the next couple of days.
“OK. Someone tell the Captain to head for home. We’re done here.” I calmly told our handlers and the translators.
Panic in Pyongyang.
Immediately, there is this hue and cry about how this was not supposed to be how this trip was going to work. This was to be an acquisition trip only. This was to be a one-off to show Best Korea geophysical prowess. This was supposed to be data gathering trip on
the Western scientists…
That last one was a bit of a mistake.
I turn to one of the translators and ask them to re-translate that last part, just in case I was hearing imaginary things.
“Oh, yes”, he replied, “He said they were here to gather data on the Western Scientists as well as offshore data.”
“Is that a fact?” I reacted. “Please tell them I need to see all my team members on the fantail immediately if you would. Sorry, translators and nationals not included in this little meeting.”
We reconvene on the fantail a few minutes later. I walk in on this little conclave with cigar and drink in hand.
“OK, gents”, I say, puffing a huge blue cloud, swigging a tot, “Here’s what I think we, as responsible international scientists, should do in this regrettable situation. We were asked to come here, with provisions that we would not be under cynosure, observation, or surveillance. Given ‘Open and Free Access’, no questions asked. We were to be treated as “esteemed guests”. This is obviously a load of dingo’s kidneys. I think we need to get as creative as possible and do whatever we can to provide as much deliberate misinformation to these characters to annoy, amaze, or disgust them as much as possible. Comments?”
There’s a general buzz, but no real dissention. After a few moment's discussion, Dax suggests we get a load of XXXXL condoms, and leave them around packaged as “Texas Medium”.
“That’s the spirit”, I reply. “Anyone one else up for a little Psychological Operations on our not-so-clever-nor-truthful hosts?”
We all agree that we will, in our own little way, start a campaign of deliberate misinformation, misdirection, and general petty bullshit nastiness for our hosts to discover and by which be dismayed.
Everyone’s in agreement. This trip has been a rotund bale of jeers from the get-go.
Promises made, promises broken. Itineraries approved then inexplicably disapproved. We make requests, they accede; and then nothing ever happens. It’s most frustrating.
We’re tolerating a lot of horse, bull, cow, and assorted other farmyard excrements; all in the name of international harmony and scientific goodwill. This has been an outgoing one-way street for too long. We’re mad as hell and we’re not going to take it anymore.
“Hellfire and Dalmatians!” I growl, growing angrier every minute I think about the subject, “We need to take the high, low, and middle ground on this offensive. Nothing too overt or obvious; however we need to jank these bastards good. But they can’t realize they’re being janked…!”
Ack cuts in.
“The esteemed Dr. Rock is right. Psychotic...but absolutely right. We got to take these bastards. We could fight them with conventional weapons. That could take years...cost millions of lives. In this case... I think we have to go all out. I think this situation absolutely requires...a really futile and stupid gesture... be done on somebody's part.”
There’s a general buzz among the assembled.
“And we're just the guys to do it.”
Shouts and catcalls of deep agreement.
“Operation ‘Confound-a-Korean’” is now enacted.
“About fucking time!”
“Let’s do it!”
“Dissen gonna be bery messy! Me no watchin!”
“OK, I think, “Who’s the prequel-series wiseass?”
“OK, gentlemen”, I continue, “We continue with our scientific duties. No fucking around there. But, when it comes to…interpretation…opinion…or personal viewpoint; let’s go full impede. Dazzle them with brilliance or baffle them with bullshit.”
We all agree and after a couple of quick rounds of old thought provoker, we realize this trip has just taken a hard left into Wackyland. We will have to let our comrades onshore know of this, but that can wait until we return. Right now, we all have jobs to do. Real jobs, serious jobs, covert and sneaky jobs…
So, it’s back to the recording shack as we lay out the plans for the next couple of days.
Volna begins: “OK, listen up you primitive screwheads. We’re going to assemble and layout a recording array that’s called a Meisenheimer Triplet. You do know what a simple Meisenheimer Triplet is, don’t you?”
There’s a slight murmur from our national friends, but in the end, they all plead ignorance.
“Right. Thought so. A Meisenheimer Triplet is a central towed array flanked by two shorter, subparallel flanking sub-frammitz arrays. We will assemble this array on-board, even though it’s probably going to take every ounce of silver solder and electrician’s tape you’ve got. The amount of data received is orders of magnitude greater than any single Sheriff-sonde array, like the ones you been using.”
Suddenly, there are nods and murmurs of agreement.
“Right”, Volna smiles sinisterly to me, “With that, we’ll need to devise an explosive package, well, actually, a series of explosive packages based on the harmonia of the pre-bottom fore-sets, water depth, tow vehicle velocity, water column density, and decomposition coefficients of the said water column. Oh, yeah. Fish too.”
Volna is really getting into the spirit of the affair.
“Who is your explosives engineer?” Ack asks, “He’s going to have to do some serious number-crunching with all the pre-blast data we’ll need to supply. “
One quick translation and there’s nothing but long faces and querulous looks from our national crowd.
“We have no explosives engineer”, the head Best Korean geophysicist laments. “Explosives are very, very heavily regulated by the government. That’s why we have several Government Observers on board. They handle the explosives.”
“Oh?” Ack remarks, “Are they fully up to speed on the Barnard-Reichmann equations for hydro-displacement of serial charges? Which subset of the marine rarefication coefficients do they employ?”
“Ummm, don’t know.” was the answer.
“Don’t know? Well”, Volna continues, “Then, they must be pretty good with the Langefors-Kihlström formulae, right?”
“No. Not as such.” Came the response.
“I see”, Ack sighs, “Well, then, I guess they must utilize the Il’yushin algorithms then. OK, it’s a bit old school, but they should still work.”
“Ah. Well. No.” was the rejoinder they offered.
“Well, then what the fuck do they use?” Volna explodes, “A modified Ambraseys-Hendorn model? Ghosh-Damen 1? Ghosh-Damen 2? Indian Fargin Standard? Prejaculated Rai-Singh protocols, fer’ chrissake? Which?”
Nothing but shaking heads and wringing hands.
“They take a case of dynamite, wire it up, and throw it overboard with a long fuse.” Was the eventual answer. “That’s why we stop to record.”
Long, exasperated sigh later, “Jesus Q. Tapdancing Christ on a crème cracker. No wonder you never get anything done.” Volna continues, “You characters are in luck. You just happen to be so lucky to have an internationally-renowned Master Blaster right here on board ship today.”
Volna turns the crowd over to me, “Doctor? Do your damnedest. And good luck.”
“Thanks, Volna”, I say, cigar in one hand, stalwart drink in the other, “OK, guys. Here’s the deal. When it comes to explosives and explosive design, I’m the hookin’ bull. No one
has authority over me. Not the Captain. Not the boson’s mate. Not the Captain’s Consort even. Nor the guys in the cheap shiny suits. What I say, goes. No exceptions. No hesitation. We green
or are we going back to shore?”
?” they ask.
’. Green. Are we understanding one another? Are we all in agreement? Are you fuckin’ diggin’ me, Beaumont?
There’s some quick back and forth in Korean, a lot of seeming bad noise. Even the shiny suit squad and Coasties join in the fun.
“Grudgingly, we agree. Green
as you say, Doctor Rock. You are the one in charge.” Came the head national’s reply.
“Splendid. I’m in charge of the charges.” I chuckle, puffing an enormous cloud of expensive Oscuro smoke, “Volna, Ack; please get me the required parameters. I’ll be in the ordnance locker to see what we’re working with here. C’mon fellas, chop-chop!”
Volna and Ack take their select set of geophysical wishers and wannabes while I get the rest of the locals, the shiny suit squad in reserve, but in tow.
I head off to the ordinance locker.
Dax runs behind “Hey! Wait for me.”
“We have to”, I snigger a reply, “We’re going to need a drinks runner.”
“Marvelous…” was the one-word response.
We get to the locked ordinance locker. It’s one of the few original structures remaining on the ship. The boat was torn down almost to the waterline and re-built for seismic acquisition, but they had enough brains to realize that the source of the seismic signals was usually explosive in nature. Dinoseis and Mini-Sossie were closed books to them.
Therefore, the locker remained intact, however grudgingly.
“Whew! And what a locker.” I whewed. “And what a lock. OK, who’s got the keys?”
There are general hemming and hawing and no one seems to know where the keys for the ordinance locker are kept.
“Well, gents”, I say, pointedly, “I would suggest that one or more of you toddle off and fucking find the goddamn keys or this will turn out to be a very short and unproductive trip, indeed.”
A while later, a bit longer than I personally care for, the boat’s Captain wanders up, all a-scowl and generally pissed-off looking.
“Who here needs the key to the explosives locker?” He asks in his Captainly, no-nonsense manner.
There’s more muttering and murmuring, but eventually, all fingers point toward me.
The Captain looks at me.
He’s giving me the once over with a LASER stink eye. I don’t know which irritated him the most; the lit cigar, the drink, the Stetson, Hawaiian shirt, cargo shorts, Scottish knee socks or field boots.
“And who the hell are you”? He asks, oh, so wrongly, through an interpreter.
I stand up, fully puffed to full mammalian threat posture and say in a loud steady voice;
“I’m THE Doctor Rocknocker, the MOTHERFUCKING PRO FROM DOVER
!, that’s who.”
Since I had a good 6 inches and way too many kilos on him; my loud, American and very un-oriental answer took him completely by surprise.
His eyes got as big as dinner plates and he shakily held out the ring of keys for the explosives locker.
“Why thank you very much”, I said, bowing in his direction ever so slightly. Wasn’t his fault he wasn’t totally clued in on all
the recent goings-on aboard his vessel.
I toss the keys to Dax, “Here, earn your keep.” I snickered.
Dax deftly fields the keys, chuckles back, and begins the game of ‘which key for which lock’?
I thank the Captain and explain that I’m the de facto
leader of this special education class, and make some pointed, mild epitaphs about landlubbers, national scientists, and the cargo of the totally clueless on board.
He sees I’m not a total boor and relaxes some. We haven’t really had a real introduction, so I grab a translator and engage the Captain in a short, though insightful conversation.
Cigars were exchanged. Handshakes were as well.
Seems he’s just as aggravated by these know-it-alls who really know-fuck-all. We see eye to eye and part friends once Dax finally figures out the combination to the weapons locker.
“Holy fuck!” I exclaim, “Now that’s
a door.” I say looking at the slowly-opening covering of the weapon’s portico. Fully five solid inches of solid steel. Triple reinforced hinges. Deadman's latches. Bringles-jams and solid, non-decabulated cast-steel cross-members.
Just the thing to contain an errant blast and send all that excess energy skyward instead of into the bowels of the boat.
OK, bonus points for that design feature.
I look inside, but it’s dark and fragrant as the inside of an irritated oyster in the bottom of the Tonga-Kermadec Trench.
Dax fumbles around and finds the light switch.
“Hmmm.” I hmmed. “Well, we’re all set for dynamite, I see.”
Case after case after case of leaking, cheap-ass Chinese knock-off sort-of Du Pont-style 50% dynamite. Box after box of Pseudo-Dyno-Nobel blasting caps. Delaminating, unwinding spools after spool of “PrimUcord”. Sticky “Korea” brand silk-woven coated Demolition Wire.
“Gads.” I sigh. “What a nightmare. Either this stuff goes off when you give it a dirty look or it doesn’t go off at all.”
Dax looks to me, “So, the trip’s a bust. Is that what you’re saying?”
“If we don’t find something that’ll work, probably,” I reply. “This shit’s worthless.”
We continue to search after I shoo everyone but Dax out of the locker. It’s damp and musty in here, smelling disconcertingly of kerosene, gherkins, and old sardines. That’s one sure sign of dynamite going bad. I warn Dax to be extra careful, that this stuff hasn’t had the best of handling. We could be in for an unexpected surprise.
So, we redouble our efforts and are much more circumspect.
Knock-off this and fake-ass that.
All Chinese in origin. It might have worked one day; but after sitting in here, unattended, unturned, and uncared for? I’m ready to both literally and figuratively pull the plug on this whole fiasco.
Dax is all smiles.
“Doctor?” Dax asks, “What is it that would make you happy?”
“A nice fishing boat, a huge never-emptying bank account, endless cigars, and a comfy chair back in the north of Baja Canada in a tavern on a good fishing lake,” I replied.
“Well”, Dax smiles, “I can’t do that, but how about this?” as he opens a cleverly hidden door.
I look in, let my eyes adjust to the low-light scenario to see no lakes, no huge bank accounts, nor fishing boats; but what I do see makes me smile wide.
It’s a sub-locker full of familiar Made-in-the-USA, True Blue, American-manufacture cyclo-trimethylene-tri-nitramine
, or Good Ol’ C-4 explosive. Block after lovely hexahedral block of the stuff.
“Dax”, I say, “Take a gold star out of petty cash. You’ve just saved the mission.”
“I’ll settle for a tall vodka and one of your cigars”, Dax smiles.
“Later”, I say, “We now have a little job which to attend.”
With C-4, designing the impulse charges is seriously a walk in the park. They’re already waterproof, so all I need is water depth and the number of seconds to which they want to record data. I can bundle a series of blocks of the stuff, charge them with a couple-three or four, just in case, blasting caps, and connect them with stout lengths of demolition wire. These will be dragged, with a ‘Herring Dodger’, to control depth, behind the boat as we are underway
It’s a novel idea, I know. One that’s only been in use in the west for about 60 years.
We’ll drag a daisy chain of C-4 packets. One after another, individual charges in the packets will detonate milliseconds apart. I can bundle the packets so that we can run a charge string of up to 12 discrete packets which will attenuate the amplification of the arrhythmic flux, I tell one of my Korean onlookers.
With this set-up, we can record data for literally sea-miles.
First, we will moosh
the C-4 into a flattened, semi-hydrodynamically stable pancake or airfoil, OK, hydrofoil, shape; wire three or five of them together, charge them, then repeat.
Depending on what parameters Volna and Ack supply, the chain will just be a number of similar packets, trailing one after the other, detonating from back to front; down below the hydrophones, but well above the seafloor.
We know that the hydrophones will be at or very near the surface, but we need to know, explicitly, the basal bathymetry of the area we're about to shoot. Wouldn’t do anyone any good if we drove over a seafloor hump and dragged the C-4 over it to have it detonate prematurely.
Or not at all.
So, we need to plot our course and sail it today while we get the hydrophone arrays built and we image the seafloor where we’re going to do some blasting. After that, it’ll probably be an all-nighter to create the blasting strings so we can spend the next day recording, and then head for home as we’re nearly out of victuals and potables.
At least, that’s the plan.
I convene a quick meeting and we plot a course on the latest charts. 30 kilometers of recording.
Shit, that’s going to be a lot of explosives. Doable, but a pain.
Remembering the quality of the recording equipment, I suggest we do a test run in the morning of just 5 kilometers. If that works, and we can up it in increments.
Dax, Sagong the head Korean geophysicist, and I go to visit the Captain.
We visit the Captain and lay out our plans. He has no objections, as were in Best Korean waters and there are no obstacles out here like sunken wrecks, kelp forests, American aircraft carriers, or other impediments.
With that, we tell him to align the ship and let us know when he can begin doing the recon sortie.
He says that he can do that immediately, and before we're out of the pilothouse, we’re recording bathymetric, i.e., depth, data. The technology’s not much different, nor advanced, than a standard Lake Winnebago fish finder, so that’s one disaster sorted.
We are sailing along in a series of parallel straight lines, which when the data are played back and deconvoluted, will give us a good idea of the bathymetry which we’ve been motoring over. It’ll basically give us both a depth map and a surface, ok, bottom, map of the seafloor above which we’re sailing. A little basic submarine hyperbolic quantum trigonometry and well, we have the data we need to plug into the various equations to see what we’ll require when we want to record seismic data to 5000 milliseconds.
With that, there’s not much else to do until we have the survey map. I dragoon Dax and Cliff into helping me inventory the explosives bunker.
“The hell with the dynamite, PrimUcord, and other Oriental-Knockoff Horseshit”, I instruct my helpers, “Let’s just count up the C-4, and see what our tally is. Oh, yeah, give me a tally of the blasting caps. Gotta use those ratty bastards, they’re the only actuators here I sort of, kind of, trust.”
With Dax, myself, and Cliff, we’re done in less than an hour. I decide that I’ll be the keeper of the keys and take them back to the Captain my own self. Rules of engagements, chain of command and all that hogwash.
I hand the keys over to the Captain and instruct the co-pilot to make an entry in the logbook that I returned the key to the Captain, this date, this time.
“By the book. It’s not just a good idea, it’s the law.” I muse. To be continued
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