For the most popular sport in the world, being introduced to the world of soccer can leave you with a lot of unanswered questions. Not only do field rules and regulations leave you skeptical as a new player or parent of a child playing the sport, but also buying your own equipment can be a challenging task to face.
You might already be aware that you need a sports cleat or shoe durable enough and susceptible to your particular specific playing surface, but you might not be aware that buying a soccer ball can actually be more difficult than it sounds.
There are a few things you should know and be aware of when it comes to choosing the right purchase for you, your child, or even your whole team. First and foremost, check out league regulations when it comes to picking out your equipment. This will help guide you on the size and type of surface and product you will need to have for your child or your team.
First, let’s begin where it all began.
History of the Soccer Ball
Dating back to the history of the sport, there was always a need for the most important piece of equipment: a ball to play. From legends about using actual human heads to animal bladders, the sport‘s first and most important piece of equipment has come a long way to be the type of material and technology available on the market today.
Referred to loosely as soccer, the sport can be traced back to the ancient Chinese people playing “tsu chu” with a round object made of animal skin to the ancient Egyptians, Greeks, and Romans playing sports similar.
Animal bladders seemed to be the ticket. Leather was then wrapped around those animal bladders and created a object used for kicking that held in a better shape.
The year 1836 was the year that brought a patented vulcanized rubber from Charles Goodyear.
Afterwards, the English Football Association made a law still in place today about the standards of the most important piece of equipment, stating that it has to be spherical with a circumference of 27 to 28 inches.
Then later was upgraded to a leather material by 1888, which helped it keep its round shape.
From then, the 1940s brought a heavier leather, which proved to be better when holding shape. The leather was stitched together, made of eighteen sections, six panels and three strips each.
Afterwards, the equipment evolved, to a white color with the intention of the giving the spectators an easier view of what they were kicking around. A synthetic material was then upgraded and used throughout production and distribution. When it was snowing, an orange ball was used, introduced in the 50s.
This piece of equipment, in the beginning, were sewn together using laces from shoes. The newfound way involves fitting pieces together, all 32 of them. This was called the Buckyball for the man who invented it.
Ever wonder why the original piece to kick around was all white with a few black hexagons? It was to help the players see the swerve of the trajectory of the kick or shot. This is the original design that you would normally associate with being kicked around a field. But as we know, times have evolved, and there have been a variety of designs introduced for the surface of it.
From the history of the this important piece of the game’s past to our present day and age, we would like to introduce to you our top recommendations when it comes to buying a soccer product. Depending on your preference, age, and playing surface, the “best” ball out there might be completely different to the ones we are suggesting.
However, here are our top three soccer ball choices that we think you should give a try to:
The Best of the Best
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At a good price for such a quality product, the Nice Ordem comes with the Nike Soccer Gear guarantee. The word Ordem in Portuguese means order, which not only you should do, but also specifically explains the piece in perfect order to play a high league, elite match, or play as if in one.
The doable synthetic leather exterior eliminates the possibility of it being destroyed or losing a touch and feel of quality. The panels of the surface are else welded fussily and ensure an air and shape retention. The cool thing about this product is it has grooves and is texturized on the surface of it to swerve in the action of bending shots. It also comes in great graphics and colors to make it easy to see.
Second Best – Runner Up
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Adidas Finale Cardiff Match White B01M2V1EAH
With a thermal bond in its butyl bladder construction, the Adidas Finale ball is made with dimpled PU exterior coating. Not only is it an officially FIFA stamped quality match product, it also comes at a great price. Used in the Champion’s League, this piece of equipment boasts its predictable trajectory and more water resistant design.
It is part one of the Official Match UEFA Champions League Collection and can be purchased in either white, mystery blue or cyan. This particular product is special because it has passed certain FIFA regulated tests to ensure the very best quality not only in its playing experience, but also water absorption, weight, rebound, and circumference.
Our Budget Pick
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SELECT Numero Soccer White B001QXMBD4
More bang for your buck, this quality piece of equipment is offered at a low price. The cover is made of polyurethane material and hand-stitched. Normally, hand-stitched pieces are only for the elite, professional matches, but the Select Numero 10 Soccer Ball is made with the quality offered at the highest level.
Since you are looking for a perfect piece of equipment for your budget, this is a great choice because it is also designed for all types of playing surfaces. Offered in white or yellow, the Numero 10 Soccer Ball has a 1.5 mm thick cover and is NCAA, NFHA, and IMS approved. Perfect for night games because of its all-white surface color.
How we picked our best soccer ball
There is a method to the madness, and components that may be overlooked can be a deciding factor when it comes to choosing a piece of equipment to fit you. When you are choosing one, you might have to factor in your child’s favorite color or favorite brand. You also have to factor in your budget, so therefore the price of the product and how much you are willing to spend on one. There are also other factors that might affect your decision, which can be regulations of a league or from your team. If you are playing at night, for example, you might need one that has brighter and more visible colors. But, all in all, there are basic factors that we used to help decide which “best soccer balls” to present you within this guide.
We chose our list of favorite choices to present to you based on two major factors: age and playing surface. When you specify and focus on these two components, you can eliminate a LOT of choices available to you already. This will make your experience of buying your product much better and easier.
Product based on Age
Normally, you won’t see your four-year-old child play in their first recreational league with one of those balls bigger than their head. Although they might be more advancing on those large, size five ones scattered around the field when they let go of your hand, there are rules and regulations protecting your kids from being smashed in the face with equipment meant to smash adults in the face.
These components of the game are regulated by rules and the federation to be a certain size for certain ages. However, if your child is “playing up”, which means they are too good to be playing with their age group and thus is playing with older kids, this could be potentially problematic in terms of danger.
Not only danger with what seems to be obvious: playing with bigger players (soccer is a sport with A LOT of physical contact), but the product and its size might actually be an issue.
Regardless if your child is a sport prodigy or not, it is good to know before you go in to purchase one for your upcoming league, what size you may need based on the age of your child or whoever you are gifting the piece of equipment to.
Size 3: Made for children ages 8 and younger. Circumference is from 23 to 24 inches.
Size 4: Made for children ages 8 to 12. Circumference is from 25-26 inches.
Size 5: Made for older children and adults, ages 13 and up. Circumference is 27-28 inches.
Those are the normal three sizes for the organized side of the sport. However, there are sizes 1 and 2, which are normally used as “promotional” uses, but also can be used as “skill” tools. These are for all ages, though you might be tempted to give it as a gift for a baby, they can actually be quite useful for older players. They are used to develop footwork skills and improve the player‘s control in their game.
These sizes are regulated by leagues, but of course, when playing just for fun, they are loose guidelines. You can decide, ultimately, which size might be best for your ten-year-old, if they have yet to begin in an organized sports league.
Product based on Type of Field
Believe it or not, there are certain products that are made specifically for certain surfaces. Which makes sense, if there are cleats made distinctly for futsal matches or indoor games with an artificial turf surface, the other pieces of equipment should also be that are persuaded more for one field than the other. Of course, this doesn’t mean that it will definitely just, stop working if brought onto a playing field surface it isn’t compatible for, but if you are going to invest your money in sports equipment, you might as well try and find the perfect one for your field.
There are two different types of product when it comes to playing indoors. One will be for your two, three, and four-year-olds. This is the big round thing that looks like a green, overgrown tennis ball. It is soft and foamy, perfect for kids that have hardly any control over where they are kicking.
The other type of indoor product is the one that has less rebound than an outdoor ball. This makes it less likely to bounce around, which is perfect for futsal.
They also have ones specifically made for futsal. These are smaller than the other two. They are made for hard surfaces, which is perfect because futsal is usually played on a court of similar material to that off a basketball court.
Outdoor synthetic and grass surfaces:
Premium Match Soccer Balls: These are the ones you see on television (if you watch the sport), used in professional games. They are extremely expensive for the average joe because they have to meet certain FIFA standards.
Match Soccer Balls: These are more accessible for you in terms of price and are more likely to be seen at your kid’s matches in season if they are playing in club or elite teams. If you are a coach and have to buy a couple ones for your team to get used to the type that are played with at your league’s matches, these are the ones that you should normally be directed to. Of course, that being said, we are assuming you are a coach of a club team, not recreational sport, who normally shouldn’t have too many rules and regulations about the type of equipment used.
Practice Balls: These are your go-to when it comes to buying a product if you really have no idea about what to get. Hence the name, they also work great when buying a lot of equipment for your team’s practices. Not only are they durable and made to last all different types of surface fields, they are also cheaper than the match ones, and a whole lot cheaper than premium match balls.
Outdoor Beach Balls: This doesn’t mean those large, overgrown plastic beach balls made of air that most tourists bring to the beach. These is actual soccer equipment made specifically for the beach. There are full leagues that play the sport on the beach, and therefore need a product specifically designed for their playing surface. Let’s be honest, playing on the beach with bare feet is a situation that just calls for a softer surface. Imagine stubbing your toe on a regular ball on the beach?
The beach soccer equipment are designed with an outer cover that is softer and is usually water resistant, because of obvious reasons.
These products may seem to be built and designed to be played just about anywhere, but that is simply not the case. Pay particular attention to the type you are going to buy, especially if you are going to play on specific surfaces usually not associated with a grass soccer field. This can spare and elongate the life of our purchase.
Breakdown of the Build of a Ball
Basically, we’re going to take you back to the basics of soccer ball design 101. This is important to know, because it usually varies depending on the piece of equipment that you would like to purchase. So, knowing what is out there, (or rather, in there) is an important factor before embarking on your journey to purchase the perfect soccer ball. There are four components to the build and the way the object is designed. An official soccer product should have all of these four. They are: the lining, the bladder, the stitching, and the cover.
Lining: This is referring to the surface thickness of a outer surface of the product. There is a variety of a number of layers between the bladder of it and the cover on the surface. These layers are called the lining and constitute the thickness of the surface.
Depending on the foreseen use of the product, professional ones are usually built with more linings than ones used for practice. Four or more layers are usually used on those created for professional matches. The more linings, the longer the life of the piece and the longer it keeps its shape. If there is more lining, it usually also bounces better. The lining can also contain a foam layer for better cushioning, this is usually seen in pieces of equipment made for younger kids just starting out.
Bladder: Originally actual bladders from animals, this name has kept its name, but essentially, this is the part of the product inside where the air is blown into. They, far from its original material of actual animal bladders, are made of either latex or butyl.
PROS: They have better surface tension.
CONS: Don’t last as long as bladders made of Butyl material.
PROS: Hold air for a longer time than Latex.
Better contact quality than Latex.
CONS: Worse surface tension than Latex.
An extra fact on the build of the bladder, is that those made for futsal, or indoor soccer, are actually made with foam on the inside of the bladder.
The panels of a ball can either be stitched, molded thermally together, or glued. This all depends on the maker of the equipment and how many panels there are.
Depending on the quality of the product and the brand name, the highest grade is stitched together with a 5-ply twisted polyester cord. The caliber products are actually hand-stitched. The lower you get in ranking and quality, the means of production changes. These pieces are usually priced at an average rate are stitched by machine, and the cheapest products are glued together.
Each of the panels is prepared for the stitching process with holes on their edges punched in. The surface is arranged then actually turned inside out so that the stitch marks are not visible from the outside.
Not only can these pieces of equipment differentiate in color, it also can vary in the material of the outside surface, called the cover. Though originally used with leather, makers found that it was way too heavy and easily worn down by weather, like rain. Therefore, synthetic leather, opposed to full grain leather which was used back in the day, was implemented as the final covering and last step to building a soccer ball.
There are two types of synthetic leather. Makers either construct the leather from Polyurethane, PU, or Polyvinyl Chloride, PVC. The ones generally made for professional competition are made from PU, and those used for practice or of “less” official importance, are made of PVC or have a rubber cover.
If you are playing futsal, you might find that the cover can be made of a felt-like material, especially for the younger players.
Last, but not least — Panels:
Though we told you there were four parts, the surface is made of panels. You might think the number of panels is a consistent part of a soccer ball — you are wrong. It is a component of this piece of equipment that can vary just as much as the color and brand name.
Commonly used is a 32-panel model, made up of 20 six-sided, or hexagonal panels and 12 five-sided, or pentagonal panels. This model, called the Buckminster type is seen as one of the most spherical and therefore used the most.
However, there are companies that build their products with the design containing 18 panels or 26 panels. Some professional leagues use these designs because when built with fewer panels, it would tend to curve more. Scientifically speaking, this is because the cover with fewer panels offers less stability. The MLS in the past was known for using these exterior and interior designs, as well as the Scottish and English leagues.
Tips for buying your first soccer ball
One of the decisions you have to make when entering the international world of the sport is buying your first and most valuable piece of equipment: the soccer ball. This might be an overwhelming experience because of all the options available to you. However, there is help for those who seek it and you are not the only first-time buyer. We have compiled a couple points to help guide you on your way to your perfect search, investment, and purchase in your product.
Here are our tips to help and guide you through the process:
1. Decide what kind of product you need. Do you need a:
Premium Game Ball?
2. Make sure you know what the playing surface will be. Are you going to be playing pick up at the beach or on a street-like surface? Is your child’s league indoor or outdoor? Is the grass natural or synthetic?
3. Pay attention to the size of the product. This is decided in relation to the age of the child who is playing or the league that you are in.
4. Decide on a budget. There is a product piece of equipment perfect for everyone, no matter what your budget is. You can even get the highest, premium quality at an affordable price. If you are buying for a child, try to make it a cheap one, because most likely, you will have to purchase a new one soon, because of either wear and tear, or the fact that they simply have outgrown it.
Always make sure, if you are playing in a league, to look at the league requirements. These may be different based on the state, the county, the age group, and as we are going to see in the next section, they can even vary from country to country. Some countries, might not even have any regulations, at all.
Best Soccer Ball for Youth U-6 and Below
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Not necessarily for youth leagues, but this one is perfect for outdoor play for your youngest child and budding sport star. Available in blue, orange, and yellow, these balls are also great to see at night or spot yours in a crowd or bag of all of them put together.
This one is best used when trying to teach a child how to play and how to develop feet and eye coordination. The product is made of foam, so when being hit when attempting to learn soccer skills won’t pose much of a threat. It is solid enough to hold up to rough playing but delicate enough to not leave a mark.
Best Soccer Ball for Youth U-6 to U-14
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Specifically designed for youth or a beginner player, this Adidas Performance ball is made with a soft touch and high durability. For the learners out there banging it and kicking it against the wall with hours of practice, or possibly not controlling their shot and kicking an own teammate or opponent, this piece of equipment is perfect for ensuring a soft touch because of its slight padding and grippy material. The bladder of it brags its best air retention, made of butyl. So, the user doesn’t have to fill it up as much when practicing. The product sold comes in blue or pink and the colors make it easy to see on the field.
Best Soccer Ball for Teens
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Although you may never have heard of this one or brand before, the Bend-It Soccer Ball is actually a great gift and buy for teens wanting to work on their craft. Coming in a stand-out design, the product piece comes in a range of five different colors. This one is specifically designed for those looking to work on their free kicks, being able to visually track your kick through the air. The product is also designed so that it shows you where the “sweet-spot” is when it comes to hitting a perfect free kick.
Best Soccer Ball for Elite Adults
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Those who are looking to become the next Ronaldo have to get their feet on this product. With all the quality and perfection of a premium game ball with the low price of a match ball, the Baden Perfection Elite Soccer Ball is designed for those looking to play their best and perfect their game.
The cover of this product is made of Teijin Microfiber, which gives it better control and will keep it longer in the air. The bladder is made of an Enkay latex design and adds durability to the model. For something of high quality that doesn’t make you break the bank, this is a great suggestion for anyone looking to take their game to the ultimate, highest level without spending a fortune.
Best Soccer Ball for Adults
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From a brand you probably have never heard of, this training equipment is perfect for the adult who doesn’t have much interest in being Lionel Messi and just wants to have a kick around with his or her friends. This one was designed to help players develop their skill control, their passing, striking, and also their juggling ability. The product is of high quality, but with a not so high price.
The Kixsports KixFriction Soccer Ball is a street and training piece of equipment made for all different surfaces, inside and outside. Made of TPU leather, it is built to last and take a beating either on the street, on synthetic or natural surfaces, or indoors.
Best Soccer Ball for Synthetic Field
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Hand stitched with polyurethane construction, this stain-resistant cover is perfect for playing on synthetic grass. Not only is it bright in design and color, it is designed to respond best when it comes to foot skill and movement related directly to it.
This one is made specifically for artificial and synthetic fields because the playing surface cannot harm the product as much as other surfaces. Synthetic fields also don’t cause much stain on it, which makes the Nike AG Elite a great choice. When played on regular grass, it is most likely to be stained with the grass.
Best Soccer Ball for Natural Grass
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This one was specifically designed for natural grass because of its shape retention and reduced water uptake. Not only is it sponsored by PUMA and is used in international matches, it also comes with a great price. Its target accuracy comes from the PU dimple technology. The product is made of foam and the bladder of high-quality rubber.
The ball is FIFA approved and is great for the touch and feel of a player considering this one to improve their skill set and hone in on their practice. It is perfect for natural grass, which is the surface most commonly found on most fields.
What Soccer Balls Look Like Across the World
As soccer is the most popular sport worldwide, it is only natural that people all over the world will go to any means to play it or get involved. This also encompasses and actually, features, children. However, unfortunately, not everyone has access to the equipment and playing surfaces that we take for granted here. The great part about it is: children have an imagination that competes with no other.
Some people are just so crazy about soccer that they would do anything to play it. If that means making their own soccer ball, then so be it.
We have collaborated with those all over the world just to see how they play soccer. This also led to the invention of Sockket.
This one, when played with for 30 minutes, can turn the kinetic energy in the product into and allow the user up to three hours of light. It is made out of foam, which not only makes it great for the kids because it won’t hurt them or threaten damage on surrounding houses, (for the most part), it also keeps the product from deflating. In normal circumstances, a possible reason why these kids could stop playing is that they don’t have access to a normal pump.
This invention not only gives these kids a playable object, it also inspires them to explore their minds and also take part in innovation. The Soccket is being played with in Mexico, the U.S., Nigeria, Brazil, and South Africa. They are planned to be distributed in Benin, Brazil, Costa Rica, El Salvador, Haiti, Honduras, Nicaragua, and South Africa.
In those countries who have yet to experience the amazing technological advances of the Soccket, have relied upon tradition and imagination to come up with the perfect tools and procedure to create a soccer ball.
Kids in countries with low income, but with a high level of enthusiasm have put together soccer balls and fashioned them with material that was just, available to them.
They can be made of anything, from socks to string, from rubber bands to plastic bags, or strips of cloth.
This has also sparked projects like One World Futbol Project, which had similar goals: to bring play to those who simply needed or wanted it. Soccer balls might just be something you don’t give a second thought to, especially when it’s stowed away in your garage after your child leaves the sport behind, but one soccer ball can make all the difference in someone’s life.
In June of 2004, German Cairos system placed transmitters in soccer products and shinguards to track every movement on the field. This allows coaches and players to replay certain plays or scenes from a game for better match and player analysis. Which opens up a whole new world of statistics.
There are also rumors spread that soccer was invented in the Newgate Prison in London back in the early 1800s. Some of the prisoners there had their hands cut off, so they invented a sport that could be played without their hands.
One of the first soccer games were referred to as basket-ball games because the game was not played with goals, but with overturned wicker baskets.
In the first World Cup in 1930 against Uruguay and Argentina, the two nations had brought their own soccer balls to the match. One was used for the first half and the other was used for the second. This was because they could not decide which one to use.
Wrapping It Up
We hope that this guide has helped you in terms of either purchasing your first soccer ball if you are new to the sport or has guided you in specifications if you are a returning soccer player, but maybe just not aware of all the rules and regulations when it comes to choosing the perfect piece of equipment.
Buying a specific ball is not just about meeting requirements on measurements, etc., but it is also about choosing which ball is great for you and your development and growth as a soccer player. This rings true as well to your children or your team if you are a coach.
You can always find a soccer ball that will meet your needs and desires when purchasing it. Do your research beforehand, however, to be fully prepared to pick the perfect soccer ball for you.
Jacky has a degree in Sports Science and is a Certified Sports and Conditioning Coach. He has also worked with clients around the world as a personal trainer.
He has been fortunate enough to work with a wide range of people from very different ends of the fitness spectrum. Through promoting positive health changes with diet and exercise, he has helped patients recover from aging-related and other otherwise debilitating diseases.
He spends most of his time these days writing fitness-related content of some form or another. He still likes to work with people on a one-to-one basis – he just doesn’t get up at 5am to see clients anymore.