Soccer balls vary in design and construction. In this section, the construction of the soccer ball is described. This includes the various materials used, types, sizes and weights of soccer balls. The following topics are reviewed:

  • Construction of the Ball
    The various parts of the soccer ball are explained. Typical materials used on the different parts of a soccer ball and how they are put together are also detailed.

  • Ball Types
    The different types of soccer balls are detailed. Use this section to also learn about the typical materials that are used on the different types of soccer balls. This will help you determine what soccer ball is best for your application and skill level.

  • Ball Grade
    Soccerballs.com uses unique symbols to point our customers in the right direction. The symbols will remove much of the confusion around ball descriptions that make it difficult to understand quality versus price. Overall, we created this rating system to simplify the process of choosing a ball that is right for you.

  • Sizes and Weights
    The various sizes of the soccer ball are shown and explained. Different age groups use different ball sizes and weights. Determine what size of ball is right for your game or buying needs.

Ball Construction

The four main components of a soccer ball are the cover, the stitching, the lining and the bladder. Understanding these components and their options will help you in choosing the perfect ball to meet your playing and quality needs.

Elements of Soccer Balls and Materials used in Production

Covers

The surface of soccer balls or coverings are made up from synthetic leather and not full grain leather (as used in the past) because leather has a tendency to absorb water causing the ball to become very heavy. Synthetic leather is typically made from PU (polyurethane) and PVC (poly vinyl chloride).

There are many variations of synthetic leather used in the construction of soccer balls. They range from AI-2000, Japanese Teijin Cordley, Microfiber, English Porvair, Korean Ducksung, Leather Art Pakistan Synthetic Leather, and PVC (poly vinyl chloride). Best soccer balls used in competition and by professionals are produced by using AI-2000, Cordley, Ducksung, Mircofiber or other types of PU synthetic leather. Promotional soccer balls or practice balls are usually constructed with Polyvinyl Chloride(PVC) or rubber (molded or stitched) covers.

Some indoor soccer ball covers are made with a felt material similar to what is used on a tennis ball.

Stitching

Panels can be either stitched, glued or thermally molded together:

  • Stitched

    The highest quality balls are stitched with a polyester or similar thread. 5-ply twisted polyester cord is the material of choice in stitching together a soccer ball. Hand sewn balls have tighter and stronger seams. Kevlar® reinforced polyester stitching is also used on some balls.
    High-end balls are hand-stitched, while most mid-priced balls are machine-stitched.

  • Glued

    Lower-end, practice balls generally have the panels glued together onto the lining.
    These offer a harder feel and are generally less expensive than stitched balls.

  • Thermally Molded

    The new World Cup 2010 Jabulani Ball and the Roteiro ball have panels that are thermally molded together.

Panels

The number of panels -- the different segments that make up the outside covering of the ball -- varies for each design.

A 32-panel ball is the most common and is the type used in most professional matches. The soccer ball is essentially a Buckminster Ball consisting of 20 hexagonal (six sided) and 12 pentagonal (five sided) surfaces. Also known as a truncated icosahedron except that it is more spherical, because the panels bulge due to the pressure of the air inside.

When they are sewn together and inflated they make a near perfect sphere. For more information on the Buckminster ball and the history of the soccer ball, click here.

Other traditional designs are 18 and 26-panel constructions, used in various professional leagues, including Major League Soccer (until 2002), Scottish and English leagues.

Fewer panels generally means the ball can be curved more when kicked because of less stability to the cover. For more information on how a soccer ball curves when kicked, click Here

Linings

Material thickness plays a vital part in the quality of hand-sewn soccer balls. Multiple layers of lining are placed between the cover and the bladder. These layers are composed of polyester and/or cotton bonded (laminated) together to give the ball strength, structure and bounce. Professional soccer balls usually have four or more layers of lining. Promotional or practice balls are often constructed with less layers of lining. The lining helps the ball retain it's shape and bounce over the life of the ball.

Many soccer balls include a foam layer for added cushioning and ball control.

Bladders

The bladder in a soccer ball holds the air. Bladders are usually made from latex or butyl. Compared to latex bladders, butyl bladders retain air for longer periods of time. Latex bladders tend to provide better surface tension. However; butyl bladders offer the excellent combination of contact quality and air retention. Futsal ball bladders are filled with foam to limit the bouncing capability of the ball since they are used on a hard flooring.

Most balls use butyl valves for air retention, with higher end balls using a silicone-treated valve for superior performance. Silicone treated valves are used on some balls for smooth insertion of the inflating needle and added protection from air loss. When you first receive a ball, a good idea is to put a few drops of silicon oil in the valve. This will provide easier needle insertion and better air retention.

Natural Latex Rubber bladders offer the softest feel and response, but do not provide the best air retention. Micro pores slowly let air escape. Balls with natural rubber bladders need to be re-inflated (at least once a week) more often than balls with butyl bladders (stay properly inflated for weeks at a time). Some balls use carbon-latex bladders in which the carbon powder helps to close many of the micro pores. Latex bladders are used in balls because of the following characteristics:

  • A It gives proper bounce.
  • B It feels softer.
  • C Same angle re-bounce characteristics.

Butyl bladders offer an excellent combination of feel and air retention and can be found in most middle to upper priced balls.

PU - Some manufacturers use bladders made from polyurethane.

How Most Hand Stitched Soccer Ball Parts are Put Together

The first stage is to roll out the material to be used for the outing casing of the ball. The casing is usually made from several layers of synthetic foam-filled leaves (panels), which are glued (laminated) together to produce a tough, smooth exterior.

The leaves are cut into the exact amount needed to make one ball. Then the panels are pre-printed with any brand names and graphics before being cut. All logos would be printed at this point in the process. Printing is typically accomplished by silk-screening onto the cover material. After printing, the material may have another layer of clear urethane (or another proprietary material) applied over the printing for protection.

The number of individual panels required are then cut out, and holes are pre-punched in preparation for stitching. The stitching is performed by turning the ball inside out, so none of the stitches show on the outside. A different type of needle is used to complete the stitching of each panel, which effectively makes the final knot 'disappear'.

The stitched ball is then reversed, the bladder inserted and inflated. One stitcher can usually do four balls in one day.

Then another process begins for those soccer balls seeking either NFHS Authentication, FIFA Approved, FIFA Inspected or International Matchball Standard (IMS) status. That process is the independent laboratory testing required to achieve one of these hallmarks. For a more detailed look at the approval types and testing procedures, click here.

Ball Types

There are many types of soccer balls, footballs or Futbols. Soccer balls can be categorized by the following types:

  • Beach
  • Street
  • Mini
  • Indoor (hard Surface)
  • Futsal Balls
  • Promotional
  • Training
  • Match

Beach Soccer Balls

  • Developed for play on the beach or like surfaces.
  • Softer with less water uptake.

Beach balls are generally more graphically appealing and the 2 biggest differences between a normal outdoor ball and a beach ball is that the materials used in beach balls are softer for play with bare feet and are more resistant to water uptake. Available in size 5.

Street Soccer Balls

  • Developed for play on hard rough surfaces like the street.
  • Sometimes referred to as a freestyle ball.
  • Produced with materials that promote grip and are very durable to withstand play on rough surfaces.

Proper street balls are made from durable materials to withstand the demands of playing on gravel or concrete. They materials are often designed to help the “street artist” maintain close control of the ball. Many suppliers claim to produce actual street balls but they are usually no more than normal soccer balls. Available in size 5 only.

Mini Soccer Balls

  • Developed for fun.
  • Available in 2 sizes.

Mini balls come in 2 sizes. Size #1 and size #2. A mini is really a size #1 and a size #2 is normally called a “Juggler”. A size 1 mini ball is more often used as a novelty or for promotional giveaways. A size #2 Juggler is really a proper juggling ball and can be used to better mimic proper training for kids.

Indoor Soccer Balls

  • Developed for Indoor hard surfaces like gymnasiums.
  • Produced used a specialize felt material like a tennis ball.

Indoor balls are less used these days but are still available from a few suppliers. Made from felt, these balls are specifically designed for Indoor use on hard wood surfaces. Available in size 4 and 5 but mainly sold in size 5.

Futsal Soccer Balls

  • A more recognized form of indoor soccer today.
  • Specially engineered for indoor and hard flat surfaces.
  • Futsal balls are produced with bladders that have been filled to minimize bounce on hard surfaces.

Futsal is a format of five-a-side football that is played extensively throughout the world. The term ‘Futsal’ is an abbreviation of the Portuguese ‘futebol de salão’ or the Spanish ‘futbol sala’, both of which translated literally mean ‘indoor football’. It is played on a pitch approximately the size of a basketball or netball court with a ball which is smaller and heavier than the outdoor football and has a reduced bounce. The ball forces a player to use their skill rather than the ball’s bounce to propel it. As a small sided game, players are constantly placed in situations where they must receive or play whilst under pressure or in confined spaces. Available in junior & senior sizes.

Promotional Balls

  • Produced to meet a price point.
  • Price is normally the overriding factor here. Value driven.
  • Always customized to include corporate logos.

Promotional balls are usually produced, just as the name implies” to promote a name brand, organization or event. Promo balls are used to create awareness of your business or corporation. Not recommended for match play. A value driven promotional ball. Available in sizes 3, 4 and 5.

Training Soccer Balls

  • Produced in a large variety of materials.
  • Price oriented for youth, camp, practice and recreational play.
  • The quality and price of a training ball increases for better skill levels and adults.
  • Used by coaches for all age groups and all standards

Training balls are by far the most difficult category of soccer ball to define. Training balls are offered in a very large variety of qualities that range from lower priced balls for soccer camps, youth and recreational play right up to training balls for the top players in the game today. It is important to select the right quality for your level of play. A word of advice, price is not always the best way to determine quality. Available in sizes 3, 4 and 5.

Match Soccer Balls

  • Developed for top players.
  • Approved for use at the highest levels of the game.
  • Produced for pure performance to exacting specifications for the greatest accuracy, speed and control.

The best quality outdoor balls will meet and exceed all minimum technical specifications and standards for the absolute highest levels of match play. Match balls are the most expensive type of ball since they are produced from the best materials and adhere to strict design and testing parameters. Available in size 4 & 5 spending up your level of play.

Ball Grade

Soccerballs.com uses unique symbols to point our customers in the right direction. The symbols will remove much of the confusion around ball descriptions that make it difficult to understand quality versus price. Overall, we created this rating system to simplify the process of choosing a ball that is right for you.

+ Identifies a good quality ball for the category described.
++ Identifies a very good or better ball in the category described.
+++ Identifies the absolute best quality ball available in the category described.

More likely than not, prices mirror our category symbols with + usually being the least expensive product in the category and ++ being the next price up and so on. However, there are always special offers and prices positioned by some brands that offer outstanding value for the ranking assigned the ball.

Beach Balls Grade

Beach ++ - Beach balls are generally more graphically appealing and the 2 biggest differences between a normal outdoor ball and a beach ball is that the materials used in beach balls are softer for play with bare feet and are more resistant to water uptake. We only show a ++ designation in this category are there are not many balls actually designed for beach with these features above. Most brands just categorize a normal outdoor ball as beach in order to have an offering in that category. Available in size 5.

Street Balls Grade

Street ++ - Street balls are normally made from durable materials to withstand the demands of playing on gravel or concrete. They materials are often designed to help the “street artist” maintain close control of the ball. Once again, as there are really not many balls actually designed for the category, we are showing only a ++ designation here. Available in size 5 only.

Mini Balls Grade

Mini + - A size 1 mini ball designed for light juggling. More often used as a novelty than for juggling.

Mini ++ - Normally called a “Juggler”, these balls are larger than traditional size 1 mini balls and are a fun training tool for kids.

Indoor Balls Grade

Indoor ++ – Indoor balls are less used these days but are still available from some suppliers. Made from felt, these balls are specifically designed for Indoor use on hard wood surfaces. We only show a ++ designation here due to the low number of actual indoor balls offered. Available in size 4 and 5 but mainly sold in size 5.

Promotional Balls Grade

Promo + - A good quality promotional ball used to create awareness of your business or corporation. Not recommended for match play. A value driven ball. Available in sizes 3, 4 and 5.

Promo ++ - A slightly better quality promotional ball also used to create awareness of your business or corporation. Not recommended for match play. A value driven ball. Available in sizes 3, 4 and 5.

Futsal Balls Grade

Futsal + - Good quality low bounce Futsal balls designed for indoor play generally budget oriented for beginners to the sport or for Training by older more experienced players. Available in sizes 4 (Junior) and 5 (Senior)

Futsal ++ - Better quality low bounce balls which meet all Futsal minimum standards for Match play by younger players and are also a better alternative for Training by experienced adult players. In most cases available in sizes 4 (Junior) and 5 (Senior)

Futsal +++ - The best quality low bounce balls that exceed Futsal minimum standards and are designed to perform for the highest levels of Futsal match play. Available in sizes 5 (senior) only.

Training Balls Grade

Training + - Good quality outdoor balls designed for Training that are generally budget oriented for youth players. Available in sizes 3, 4 and 5.

Training ++ - Better quality outdoor balls which meet all minimum technical specifications and standards for better youth and adult training. Available in sizes 3, 4 and 5.

Training +++ - The best quality outdoor balls which meet and exceed all minimum technical specifications and standards for adult training and youth match play. Generally available in sizes 4 and 5 only.

Match Balls Grade

Match + - Good quality outdoor balls designed for match conditions. Your entry priced match ball for adults and more competitive youth players. Generally available in sizes 4 and 5 only.

Match ++ - Better quality outdoor balls which meet all minimum technical specifications and standards for match play for Adults and older youth players 14 years and up. Generally available in size 5 only.

Match +++ - The best quality outdoor balls which meet and exceed all minimum technical specifications and standards for the absolute highest levels of match play. Available in size 5 only.

Sizes and Weights

Soccer balls come in the following official sizes:

  • Size 5 Ages 12 and up
  • Size 4 Ages 8 and 12 years
  • Size 3 Under 8 years
  • Size 2 and 1 Promotional soccer balls

Choosing the right size ball

The first step in purchasing a soccer ball is determining the proper size for your age group. 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 the age group that the ball will be used with. Soccer balls for match use come in three different sizes which range from size 3 to size 5.

Size 3

Size 3 balls are the smallest balls and are generally used for children under the age of 8
These balls are generally 23-24 inches in circumference and weigh between 11-12 ounces

Size 4

Size 4 balls are used for players between the ages of 8-12
Size 4 balls weigh between 12-13 ounces and have a circumference of 25-26 inches

Size 5

This is the international standard match ball for all ages 12 and older, including all adult play
The size 5 ball weighs between 14-16 ounces with a circumference of 27-28 inches