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Football-Soccer Ball Fundamentals

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Learn the basics of ball size, construction and certification.

 
Nike soccer balls are fast, round, responsive and durable. Explore the inner and outer workings of each ball and learn a little about certification too.
 

Ball Sizes

 
Soccer balls come in different sizes. Kids usually kick a size 3 ball. Players 8 – 11 years old typically play with a size 4 ball. A size 5 ball is the most common. It’s the official size for high school and professional play. Players can also use size 1 miniature skills balls for practice.
 

Did You Know?

 
Soccer balls designed specifically for Futsal, or other small-sided games are available in Youth size 3 or Pro size 4.
 

Ball Construction

 

Ball Casing

 
The outer layer of a soccer ball is called the casing. Nike soccer balls are most commonly made with a polyurethane (PU) or thermoplastic polyurethane (TPU) casing.
 

PU casing

 
Absorbs less moisture for more consistent, durable performance in varying weather conditions. And it’s much softer than traditional polyvinyl chloride (PVC), especially in colder temperatures.
 

TPU casing

 
Provides a soft feel to the ball and is a great value for consumers.
 
Leather typically isn’t used on soccer balls because of its tendency to retain water. Retaining water makes for a heavy ball that doesn’t move quickly on the field.
 

Graphic or Color

 
As part of the casing, graphics or color is used to help players read the ball better, especially when in flight.
 

Asymmetrical Graphics

 
Some soccer balls have asymmetrical graphics, creating a break in the pattern to help you judge the ball flight, trajectory and spin.
 

Hi-vis Color Combinations

 
These combos make it easier to see the ball in low-light conditions.
 

Nike RaDaR Technology

 
With a scientifically tested combination of color, contrast and graphic design placement, Nike RaDaR technology offers a pronounced visual signal that helps players quickly identify the ball and its movement.
 

Did You Know?

 
A soccer ball may be kicked up to 2,000 times in an average match.
 

Ball Panels

 
Casings are made up of different shapes of panels. The number of panels varies between 32 for the traditional, everyday ball to 26-panel (and even 12-panel balls) that offer increased durability and enhanced touch because of fewer seams.
 
Panels can be stitched by machine or hand. To distinguish between the two types of construction, look at the stitches. In a machine-sewn ball, the stitches are more visible.
 

Machine-sewn

 
Requires thicker casing and a foam underlay, often EVA, to withstand the automated stitching process.
 

Hand-sewn

 
Provides highest quality.
 

Geo-Balanced II

 
Nike soccer balls that use the Geo Balanced II technology have an advanced panel pattern to create a soccer ball that is faster, rounder and more responsive.
 
Special configurations of hexagons and pentagons allow uniform dispersion of air inside the casing.
 
The center of each panel aligns with the center of the bladder, which makes the ball rounder. And rounder balls have a straighter flight.
 
They also have better durability since they wear more evenly instead of getting worn down on particular spots.
 

Ball Bladder/Lining

 
Beneath the soccer ball casing, a bladder and lining hold the air in and provide shape retention. Bladders are made of either: butyl, latex or rubber.
 

Butyl Bladders

 
Reduce rebound for better performance on hard surfaces and provide optimal air retention.
 

Latex Bladders

 
Used in pinnacle soccer balls – they offer high-energy return for powerful shots.
 

Rubber Bladders

 
Often have an extra layer inside to create maximum shape retention, bringing performance to value-priced balls.
 

Nike Exclusive 6-wing Bladder

 
Improves overall roundness because there are more touch points on the casing than a typical 4-wing bladder.
 

Did You Know?

 
Some soccer balls created specifically for Futsal (or small-sided games) have a bladder filled with foam instead of air. Using foam gives the ball less bounce, making it easier to control on hard surfaces.
 

Ball Certification

 
Certification stamps on soccer balls are important because they help differentiate the performance and price.
 

FIFA Approved

 
Look for the FIFA approved mark to identify the highest guaranteed quality and consistency in the world. FIFA approved balls pass seven tests that measure:
 
1. Circumference
2. Roundness
3. Rebounding
4. Weight
5. Pressure
6. Water absorption
7. Shape and size retention
 

What is FIFA?

 
FIFA stands for the Federation Internationale de Football Association. It’s the world governing body for soccer and has over 200 member nations.
 
Another, independent certification is International Matchball Standard, or IMS.
 
And an NFHS stamp means the ball is approved for high-school play.
 
-Soccer Mom
 
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