The most modern feature is an embedded NFC chip, which is found on the top of the ball. If you download a free app on iOS or Android, you can personally interact with the ball's exclusive content and location-specific challenges. You'll also be able to participate and enter competitions and World Cup-related challenges. Of course, you can record and upload your experiences for social media posterity.
At the World Cup level, these tiny changes in a ball’s aerodynamics can legitimately impact a team’s performance, so the intense scrutiny of the World Cup ball is perhaps to be expected. “You could argue that it’s the most important piece of equipment in the most popular sport in the world,” says John Eric Goff, Professor of Physics at University of Lynchburg.
Crafted by Adidas, the Telstar 18 is the official ball of the FIFA World Cup. Drawing inspiration from the company's first World Cup match ball, which debuted at the 1970 tournament in Mexico, the new ball reimagines the 12 black panels on an otherwise white design. Fun fact: the iconic original black and white ball was made that way to be more visible for black-and-white TV viewers, and it was dubbed the "star of television."
If you have a youth player for whom you are purchasing this soccer ball, then take note that the Size 3 ball in this series is closer to a Size 4 ball. The weight and feel is still accurate, so it is good for home practice and play. The sizing just might make it difficult to take this ball to practice for some players. It doesn’t come with a 32-panel design, but it does have the traditional hexagon panels over the entire cover of the ball. This allows players to work on some ball movement skills, as well as placement drills, with relative ease at home.
As always with Nike balls, the Merlin has an excellent feel, particularly when passing. The ball is also great for shooting due to Nike’s 4-panel construction, 360-degree sweet spot technology and the soft polyurethane outer material. It won’t deviate too much in the air due to the thermally-bonded pentagonal panel layout, so it’s perfect for training as well as games.