Choosing a soccer ball sounds like a simple task until you discover the many options available. With different materials, sizes and types, purchasing a soccer ball can be daunting. But have no fear, we have broken down all the key attributes to keep in mind when choosing the best soccer ball for your style of play.
The most common soccer balls you will come across are match balls and training balls. Match balls are for game-play and must follow official size, weight and shape regulations. Training balls are meant for practice and recreational use on a variety of playing environments. They are also more durable since they are made specifically to be used for an extended period of time.
Soccer balls are made up of two parts: the casing and the bladder. The casing is what covers the outside of the ball and its panels, while the bladder is the compartment inside the ball that holds the air. Each can be made of several different materials.
- Panels are the octagon-shaped quilts that are seen on the outside of soccer balls. Official FIFA-approved balls contain 32 panels, but other variations include 26 and 18 panels.
- Casings are made of either PVC (poly vinyl carbonate), PU (polyurethane), a combination of both PVC/PU, or synthetic leather. PVC balls are usually cheaper, harder on the outside and very durable. PU balls are typically higher in quality, softer to the touch and more responsive than PVC balls. Synthetic leather balls are designed for the highest level of playing, or professional matches, because it delivers increased control. Glossy finishes are often added to all kinds of balls to help reduce water damage, as well as scuffing.
- Bladders are comprised of either latex or butyl. Latex bladders are softer and preferred by many professionals. Butyl bladders have much higher air retention, and need be to be reflated less often than balls with latex bladders. The average inflation for soccer balls fall in the range of 9-10.5 pounds of air.
Soccer balls come in five sizes, and the size best suited for you usually depends on your age. But they can also differ from league to league, so it’s best to check with a coach about size restrictions before purchasing one.
- Size 1 soccer balls, also known as mini or skills balls, are used to improve footwork or just for fun.
- Size 2 soccer balls are sometimes used during matches for children under the age of 4, and can also be used for ball control drills.
- Size 3 soccer balls are the smallest official ball and used during matches for children under the age of 8.
- Size 4 soccer balls are used during matches for children between the ages of 8-12.
- Size 5 soccer balls are the largest official ball and standard for all players above the age of 12.
While most adult soccer leagues use an official 32-paneled size 5 ball, there are other variations of soccer balls you may come across on your buying journey.
- Turf soccer balls are made to withstand more wear and tear from artificial fields that tend to have a rougher playing surface.
- Indoor soccer balls are most often size 5, but are made to have less rebound to accommodate the harder surfaces and turf that covers the playing ground and walls of an indoor soccer field.
- Beach soccer balls are size 5, but are lighter than an official grass soccer ball, and typically softer to provide more comfort to bare feet. They are usually brightly colored to make them easier to see on the sandy beach terrain, and often are made water resistant in case they are kicked into the ocean.
- Futsal soccer balls are size 4 but usually weigh about the same as a size 5 ball. They are typically made with less bounce since the game is played on a hard surface indoors, and sometimes have felt or suede casings to help stabilize the ball on the slippery playing floor.