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Soccer Ball Buying Guide

Soccer Ball Buying Guide
Playing SurfacesTypes of Soccer BallsCertification
Components of a Soccer BallChoosing The Right SizeCare & Maintenance

From a friendly game in the backyard to a championship match at the World Cup, the soccer ball is the most critical component of the game. When buying a soccer ball, there are many important things to consider before making your purchase, such as the appropriate size, the materials of the ball and the surface on which you will be playing. DICK's Sporting Goods offers a wide variety of indoor and outdoor soccer balls that will fit the requirements of your league, age group and skill level.

Playing Surfaces

Grass

  • Most commonly used and readily available playing surface for outdoor soccer leagues
  • Provides the most surface tension and requires an outdoor soccer ball for training and match play

Artificial Turf

  • Made from synthetic fibers and rubber crumbs that are made to look like grass
  • Allow for more wear and tear as well as easier maintenance
  • Most often found in stadiums and arenas
  • Has a flatter, more even surface that may cause the ball to roll slightly faster than if it were on grass
  • Consider a FIFA-regulated outdoor soccer ball or a turf ball for training and competition

Indoor

  • Commonly made from flat artificial turf, causing the ball to roll faster and bounce higher than if it were on high turf or grass
  • If you are playing in an indoor soccer league, consider purchasing a softer indoor soccer ball for better control

Hard Floor

  • Intended specifically for playing Futsal, a game that is played on a basketball-sized wood floor or other flat artificial surface with a smaller and heavier ball
  • Demands specific Futsal balls for training and competition

Types of Soccer Balls

Match

  • Built specifically for competition or high-level training
  • Made with higher-quality materials to offer better performance and reliability on the field
  • Must conform to regulation standards of the league in which you play
  • Intended for outdoor use, but can be used indoors as well

Training & Recreational

  • Extremely durable and built to handle extended use on many types of playing surfaces
  • Typically less expensive than match balls and suitable for all skill levels
  • May often be constructed with PVC casing for enhanced durability

Indoor

  • Same size as a FIFA-regulated ball (size 4 or 5)
  • May have a "fuzzy" exterior cover, similar to that of a tennis ball, to provide a great touch, limit roll distance and help reduce the risk of injury
  • Not intended for outdoor use

Futsal

  • Smaller, heavier and softer than a size 5 FIFA-regulated ball
  • Built specifically for the game of Futsal and should not be used in regular soccer competition
  • Constructed with either a butyl or latex bladder that may be wrapped in layers of foam or cloth to provide a softer feel, less bounce, reduced flight and better control on hard floor surfaces

Mini

  • Used primarily for skill building and promotional purposes for various teams and clubs
  • Considered a size 1 ball and is not intended for match play

Certification

Many soccer balls are stamped and approved by various leagues or organizations that test important qualities of the soccer ball, such as its size, materials and shape. It is important to know if your league or organization requires any of these certification standards before making your purchase.

FIFA Approved

Fédération Internationale de Football Association (FIFA) approval means that the ball has been thoroughly tested for various manufacturing standards, including shape, bounce, water retention, speed and trajectory. The international standard match ball is a size 5. For a detailed list of FIFA approval requirements, CLICK HERE.

NFHS and NCAA Approved

The National Federation of State High Schools Association (NFHS) and National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) set the standards for high school and collegiate matches, respectively, across the United States. These organizations demand that the size 5 ball:

1) be spherical

2) made of weather-resistant material

3) deliver a circumference between 68 and 70 centimeters

4) weigh between 14 and 16 ounces

5) be inflated to the manufacturer's recommended pressure rating

Components of a Soccer Ball

The cover is the outer casing of the ball that surrounds the layers of lining and the bladder. It is made from different types of durable materials and can be printed with team graphics, logo designs and bright colors that help make the ball stand out on the field. The type of cover you will use largely depends upon your skill level and the surface on which you will be playing. There are three common types of covers:

Cover

Synthetic Leather

  • Built for high-level performance and typically pricier than other materials
  • Often used in professional matches
  • Offers increased control, a soft feel and a responsive touch on the ball
  • May absorb more water over time and is not as durable as PU or PVC

Polyurethane (PU)

  • More rigid feel than synthetics, but is softer and offers a better touch on the ball than PVC
  • Popular choice for many competitive players because of its reliability and preferred feel
  • May scuff easily and deteriorate faster than PVC covers
  • Many are enhanced with a glossy thermoplastic polyurethane (TPU) exterior coating to prevent water absorption, deterioration and abrasions

Poly Vinyl Carbonate (PVC)

  • Most durable type of cover that will not scuff as easily as PU or synthetic
  • Offers a harder and more inflexible feel, causing you to have less control than with synthetic covers
  • Ideal for long-term training purposes
  • Often enhanced with a glossy coating to help reduce water absorption, deterioration and abrasions

Panels

Panels are the different segments and shapes that make up the exterior cover of a soccer ball. Panels can be hand-stitched, machine-stitched or thermally bonded. The number of panels can also vary depending on the type of ball, the game setting and the manufacturer.

Stitching

Stitching plays an important part in determining the quality and durability of a soccer ball. High-quality balls use 5-ply polyester material or similar thread for stitching and are often reinforced with Kevlar®. There are various methods in which the panels of a ball can be stitched together:

  • Hand-stitched soccer balls have strong seams that provide a more explosive performance and increase the ball's overall durability
  • Machine-stitched soccer balls are not as durable or tightly constructed, but are typically less expensive than hand-stitched or thermally-bonded balls
  • Thermally-bonded soccer balls use a process in which panels are fused together for an incredibly tight seam, making the ball perfectly spherical and less absorbent. Typically found in professional matches, thermally-bonded soccer balls deliver an optimal flight pattern and may fall into a higher price range

Number of Panels

The number of panels on a soccer ball varies by design and primarily comes down to the preference of the player. However, different panel numbers can have different effects not only on the look of the ball, but how the ball moves through the air as well.

  • More panels offer better control and overall structure
  • Fewer panels (ranging anywhere from 6 to 26) will be more aerodynamic, deliver more speed and may curve slightly through the air
  • Traditional 32-panel balls are the most commonly used soccer balls in professional matches

Lining

The lining of a soccer ball is the layer(s) directly between the bladder and the outer cover. Lining plays a critical role in determining the overall durability and quality of a soccer ball.

  • Helps maintain the ball's overall structure
  • Protects the integrity of the bladder and provides better feel and control upon contact
  • Higher-quality balls are typically lined with four layers of polyester and cotton, while mid-level balls contain two or three
  • Some soccer balls are constructed with an extra layer of foam for increased cushioning

Bladder

The bladder is the innermost part of the ball that defines the ball's shape, contact quality and movement when filled with air. There are two types of bladders that are most commonly found in soccer balls:

Butyl

  • Can retain air for longer periods of time than latex bladders
  • Provides excellent contact quality
  • Easier to maintain and require less air refills
  • Considered to be not as responsive as latex bladders
  • Some butyl bladders are enhanced with 20% rubber for better feel and control

Latex

  • Often found in higher-end match balls due to its softer touch and feel
  • Offers great bounce and response, but does not always provide the best air retention
  • Requires more frequent inflation due to small micro pores on the cover that allow air to slowly escape
  • Some balls are constructed with carbon-latex bladders, which help close these micro pores and allow the ball to stay at proper inflation for longer periods of time

Choosing The Right Size Ball

When choosing the right size ball, the age group and league standards for which you play are important factors to consider before making a purchase. Many soccer leagues have different size requirements, so be sure to check with your coach or organization to find out which is the proper size for you to use. Soccer balls at Dick's Sporting Goods come in four different sizes:

Size 3 and size 4 soccer balls are best for children and youths under the age of 13, while a size 5 soccer ball is considered the international standard for high school, collegiate, professional and other organized soccer leagues.

Care & Maintenance

In order to prolong the life of your soccer ball, there are important steps to take before, during and after use. Avoid sitting or standing on your soccer ball, as it may warp the structure and permanently damage the pressure system. Also, avoid kicking your ball against hard and uneven surfaces, such as concrete walls or gravel, to avoid scuffing and puncturing.

Recommended Pressure Ratings

Frequently checking the pressure of your soccer ball before and after play is critical to maintaining the performance of your ball. When pumping air into your ball, you'll want to inflate to the appropriate amount of pressure that is not too soft, and not too firm. A soft ball will not bounce or roll properly, making it difficult to control during play. A ball that is too hard will bounce too much and may cause injury to players. Most soccer balls have the recommended pressure rating listed directly on the ball, typically ranging from 6 to 8 lbs.

After purchasing your soccer ball, your next step should be getting a ball pump with replacement needles. Because you never know when you may need one, many ball pumps offer a compact design that is easy to transport in your soccer bag. Make sure you moisten the needle before inserting it into the ball to avoid puncturing.

Cleaning

Especially important for outdoor soccer balls, be sure to wipe away any excess dirt and to dry out your soccer ball in order to prevent deterioration or water absorption over time. Other helpful tips to consider are:

  • Use mild soap to wipe down the ball and avoid any harsh chemical cleaners
  • Try to keep the ball free from the extreme elements, such as heavy rain, high heat, direct sunlight or very low temperatures, as this could cause permanent water retention and warping
  • Avoid playing on any rough or rocky surface, such as cement, gravel and asphalt in order to prevent puncturing and abrasions

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