6 Things to Know When Choosing a Soccer Ball

The soccer ball used during the 2010 Fifa World Cup was an Adidas ‘Jabulani’, which literally means "to celebrate." In looking for a soccer ball to call your own, here are a few things that you might want to consider.

1. Where will It Be Used?

Soccer can be played both indoors and outdoors. In choosing the right ball, you must first decide where it will most often be used. Will it be in the field for actual play, or indoors for practice? Indoor soccer balls are made for different play conditions from outdoor soccer balls, determining this early on can greatly affect your choice.

2. How Big Should It Be?

Soccer balls are not like one-size-fits-all shirts. This is where the saying size matters actually means something. Size 3 balls are made for young players (grade school). Size 4 balls are for pre-teens (middle school), while older players like teens and adults are better off with size 5 balls.

3. What Should It Be Made of?

If you want to save a few bucks, go for the rubber balls. Aside from being easy on the pocket, they are also durable. But if you want to have a feel of league soccer balls, they’re nothing like a rubber ball. PVC (polyvinyl chloride) is more expensive but it gives a better playing feel than rubber balls. But if you are looking for the real deal, you may opt for the leather ball which is much more expensive. However, leather balls tend to absorb water and can sometimes be too heavy, which is not good for play. A safe choice will be reasonably-priced polyurethane ball, which is a synthetic material somewhat like rubber but sturdier and more water-resistant than rubber.

4. What is inside the ball?

Some might not know this, but soccer balls have bladders. This bladder is the part of the ball located inside that gives it shape and movement. Cheaper balls used butyl bladders, which hold air well but not as good as latex bladders. Latex bladders are more responsive and are often used in high quality balls. These bladders enable the best play. However, they tend to lose air faster, and the only solution is to inflate them more often.

5. How Heavy Should the Ball Be?

Lighter balls are preferred by most soccer enthusiasts because heavier balls can hurt more if they are kicked wrongly. Also, they are more prone to losing momentum when kicked.

6. How many Panels Should the Ball Have?

Soccer ball panels range from 6 to 32 panels. This number determines the ball’s movement through the air and the amount of control a player can have over it. Indoor soccer usually requires 6-panel balls while ordinary soccer balls usually have 32 panels. Fewer panels mean higher speed and better aerodynamics, while more panels guarantee better control. Most professional leagues use 18 panel balls, including the United States Major League Soccer.