The soccer ball is the only essential piece of equipment in the game of soccer. But with 400+ soccer balls on SOCCER.COM, how do you know which soccer ball is right for your game and your level of play? Why does one soccer ball costs three times more than other balls? Why do some soccer balls seem to go exactly where you want them when others tend to fly askew?
This is SOCCER.COM’s guide to choosing the right soccer ball for your game.
SOCCER.COM carries training soccer balls, match soccer balls, professional match soccer balls, beach soccer balls, street soccer balls, indoor soccer balls, turf balls, futsal soccer balls, mini/skills soccer balls and medicine balls.
Premium Match Balls
Premium match balls are usually FIFA approved. FIFA approved is the highest ranking a soccer ball can achieve. It means these soccer balls meet the standards of the international governing body of soccer, FIFA. FIFA approved soccer balls have passed a series of rigorous tests based on shape, air retention, performance, water absorption and flight. The official match balls of the FIFA World Cup, FIFA Confederations Cup, UEFA Champions League, English Premier League, Spain’s La Liga, Italy’s Serie A, Major League Soccer and most every other professional soccer league and tournament are FIFA approved premium match balls.
Match soccer balls are still match-worthy soccer balls. Match soccer balls are often similar materials to the premium match balls just with a different construction. Some high school and college teams use match balls, which are often NFHS, and NCAA approved.
Training soccer balls are built to be extremely durable and can be used on a variety of field types. Training soccer balls are generally great for any skill level.
Turf soccer balls are made to be more durable for new generation turf and artificial grass fields.
Indoor soccer balls are made to have slightly less rebound to better suit the tight conditions of the indoor game and the play off of walls. Indoor balls have durable covers to stand up to play on turf and rebounding off of hard walls.
Futsal-specific soccer balls are smaller, but usually weight about the same as a regular size 5 soccer ball. Futsal balls are often low-bounce and made specifically for futsal play for better control during fast play on hard surfaces.
Beach and street soccer balls are made with soft outer casing for greater comfort on bare feet. Beach soccer balls are usually treated to be water-resistant. Street soccer balls are made to withstand the demands of playing on gravel and concrete.
Medicine balls aren’t meant to be used for match play. Medicine balls are heavy and designed for goalkeeper and strength training.
Mini/skills balls are size 1 soccer balls. They are used to sharpen footwork or just for fun.
SOCCER BALL VALUE
Soccer ball price can vary from $20 to over $150. What’s the difference? From Training Balls to Match Balls to Premium Match Balls, the differences can be found in cover, lining, bladder and overall construction. For instance, more expensive soccer balls are bonded for shape retention and low water uptake.
Also, in general, the better the soccer ball, the truer the flight. True flight means the ball goes exactly where you want it to go on the field. Durability can also be an important factor when choosing a soccer ball.
SOCCER BALL CONSTRUCTION
Panel construction on soccer balls can greatly affect the flight of a ball. The soccer ball cover can be machine-stitched, hand-stitched or thermally bonded. How a soccer ball is put together can also affect water absorption. Number of panels can also vary (32 panels is the most common design). Other soccer ball designs include 18 and 26 panels. Nike, adidas, PUMA and other soccer brands do offer balls with more unique soccer ball panel shapes that can result in better performance and truer flight. Often less panels on a soccer ball means fewer seams, which translate to a rounder shape and less water uptake.
SOCCER BALL MATERIALS
There are two main types of materials used to make soccer balls: PVC (Poly Vinyl Carbonate) and PU (Polyurethane).
PVC is more affordable and can be more durable than PU. Scuff-resistant PVC is generally used in training soccer balls. PVC is also used in indoor soccer balls, futsal balls and street soccer balls. PU is usually reserved for higher end match balls and premium match balls. A PU soccer ball is often softer than a PVC soccer ball. PU tends to have a better responsiveness off the foot. Note, all PU and all PVC soccer balls are not the same, there are different levels in quality of both PVC and PU and different ball construction techniques.
Glossy coatings are often used to aid in reducing water absorption and scuffing on softer PU soccer balls.
Soccer Ball Bladders
If you don’t know, the bladder is the insides of the soccer ball. It’s the chamber that’s filled with air to keep the soccer ball inflated. Soccer ball bladders are almost always butyl or latex. Premium soccer balls usually have natural latex bladders. Latex bladders are softer, with a better feel. However, latex soccer ball bladders do not retain air and shape as well as butyl soccer ball bladders do and require more frequent inflation. Butyl soccer ball bladders are known for their excellent air retention.
SOCCER BALL SIZES
For most soccer players (over the age of 12), size 5 soccer balls are the standard. Younger (U8-U12) soccer players often play with a size four soccer ball. Only the youngest soccer players use size 3 soccer balls. Mini or skills soccer balls are considered to be size 1 soccer balls. They can be used for footwork development. A size 5 soccer ball is standard for almost all adult soccer players. Size 5 soccer balls are what professional soccer players around the world use. It’s also a good idea to check with your team’s officials to make sure.
SOCCER BALL INFLATION
The ideal inflation for most soccer balls is 9 to 10.5 pounds of air. The inflation is also usually list next to the valve on the ball. Inflating a soccer ball too much or too little can damage it and affect play.
SOCCER BALL CARE
It’s a good idea to clean and dry your ball after each use. It can be a pain, but it will help keep your ball in top shape. Dirt and grit can easily wear away your soccer ball’s cover. It’s also not a good idea to keep your ball in the trunk of a hot car. Extreme heat or extreme cold can drastically reduce your soccer ball’s durability. Despite being handy, it’s also not a good idea to sit on your soccer ball. Weight can easily warp the shape of your soccer ball.