Soccer Ball 101: Types, Size, and Material

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Soccer is potentially the most popular sport in the world. The most essential item for this sport, without which you literally can’t play, is the ball.

Knowing how to pick the right soccer ball may sound like a simple task since all soccer balls look pretty much the same until you discover the many options available. With the different types, sizes, and materials available, choosing a soccer ball can be daunting. In this article, we are going to discuss all these features to help you choose the best soccer ball for your style of play.

Different Types

Professional Match Soccer Balls

These balls are developed for top-level international professional matches. Typically, they have some type of organizational approval such as the FIFA approval logo imprinted on the ball. In the construction of such a ball, there are at least five layers used and they are of the best materials. It’s not surprising that these are the most expensive types of balls since they use the best materials and adhere to strict design and testing parameters. Ball trajectory, balance, shape, bounce, water absorption, and velocity are all strictly controlled.

Training Soccer Balls

Training soccer balls are also known as recreational, practice, or camp soccer balls. Typically, these balls are constructed with four or fewer layers and use a lower quality outer cover such as PVC. Many training balls made out of molded material have been designed to withstand rough surfaces, for instance, concrete or asphalt. 

Indoor Soccer Balls

Indoor soccer balls usually consist of a felt type outer covering which is similar to the material used on tennis balls. They are made with foam so they weigh more and bounce less. In fact, these balls are made to be used when playing at places that aren’t designed specifically for soccer, such as a basketball or tennis court. 

Futsal Balls

The main difference between a typical soccer ball and a Futsal ball is that the bladder is filled with foam. They are usually heavier and have less bounce since the Futsal game is played on a hard playing surface. Sometimes, Futsal balls also have felt or suede casings to help stabilize the ball on the slippery playing floor. These balls run from size 2 to 4.

Beach Soccer Balls

These soccer balls are lighter than the typical grass soccer balls and usually softer in order to provide more comfort to bare feet. Plus, they are most often brightly colored to make them easier to see on the sandy beach terrain. As there are great possibilities to be kicked into the ocean, they are made water-resistant.

What Are the Different Sizes of Footballs?

When deciding what soccer ball to purchase, you also have to take into consideration the size of the ball. The right size of the ball most commonly depends on the age of the players. One reason why there are different ball sizes and why is it important to choose the right one is that the ball can impact the development of young players and their safety. For instance, if a 5-year-old is getting hit with a size 5 ball, it would hurt a lot more compared to being hit with a football size 3 (which is much smaller). Another reason for the sizing standards is that a young child might have a difficult time manipulating and kicking around a larger soccer ball. Therefore, children are encouraged to play with smaller balls. Kids can also hurt their ligaments and tendons if they start kicking a larger ball than what their body is actually prepared for. 

When it comes to sizes, here are the possible options. 

Soccer Ball Size 1

These are mini soccer balls. They are never used in official game matches but are rather for fun and play. Mini balls are a great tool for young kids to learn how to improve footwork and master the ball.

Soccer Ball Size 3

Players aged 6-9 years should go for high-quality soccer balls size 3. These are the smallest official balls when it comes to soccer play. Soccer balls size 3 come with a circumference of 58 – 61mm. Training balls of this size weigh 280 – 340g, while match balls size 3 weigh 300 – 340g. 

Soccer Ball Size 4

Soccer ball size 4 is designed for 9-12-year old players. This ball is supposed to weigh between 350g-390g, with a circumference of 63.5cm – 66cm. 

Soccer Ball Size 5

This ball size is the largest official ball and it is the standard for all players above the age of 12. This ball should weigh between 410g – 450g, with a circumference of 68cm – 70cm.

Material

Generally, soccer balls are made up of two parts – casing and bladder. The casing part is what covers the outside of the ball and its panels, while the bladder part is the compartment inside the ball that holds the air. Each part can be made of several different materials. 

Panels are the octagon-shaped quilts seen on the outside of the balls. FIFA-approved soccer balls contain 32 panels, however, there are variations that include 26 and 18 panels.   

When it comes to casings, they are made of either PVC, PU, a blend of PVC and PU, or synthetic leather. Typically, PVC balls are cheaper, harder on the outside and quite durable. PU ones are higher in quality, softer to the touch, and more responsive than PVC ones. Synthetic leather soccer balls are designed for professional matches because it delivers increased control. To all these kinds of balls, there is usually a glossy finish added to help reduce water damage and scuffing.

Bladders are comprised of either butyl or latex. Butyl bladders have much higher air retention. Latex bladders are softer and the preferred choice of many professionals.

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