The new ball is a product of four years of design and testing, and looks are about the only thing it shares with its older relative. The original model was comprised of 32 individual panels that had to be hand-stitched together. The new one, manufactured in China and Pakistan, has just six panels that are machine-stitched around a newly designed latex bladder, ensuring a more stable performance from ball to ball.
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.
Soccer, also known as "the beautiful game," is an excellent sport to increase physical fitness and the concept of teamwork. Get your little superstar started with one of our top 10 soccer balls varying in sizes and age ranges. Our list was recently updated to include new products as well as updated product specifications like construction materials, size, cost and availability.
When any object goes through the air, a thin cushion of air wraps around it that stays relatively still. This boundary layer is why you get dust trapped on your ceiling fan. At slower speeds, the air around a soccer ball moves smoothly over the surface and separates off the sides of the ball at its widest points. Imagine a ball moving from right to left across a clock, Goff explains, so traveling from the 3 to the 9. With laminar flow, the air flows over the surface and then flows off at the 12 and 6, which creates more drag in the air. Drag slows the ball down faster. At higher speeds, the air moves turbulently across the ball’s surface and peels off at the 2 and 4. The wind effectively wraps around the back. This turbulent flow has less drag, which means the ball keeps moving at high speed for longer.
With the increased seam length, Goff says there was actually a risk that this ball would be too rough. “Very little changes in those textures can have noticeable aerodynamic effects,” he says. The fact that the Telstar 18 has almost the same drag curve as the Brazuca, with aerodynamic properties changing at about the same speeds, is impressive. “It has to be an engineering and technical challenge,” he says.
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“I kind of feel sympathy for the players and especially the goalkeepers that have to get used to a new ball,” Goff says. So far the Telstar 18 has received criticism from a few goalkeepers that played with it starting in November, unhappy with how it moves in the air and the way the surface feels. Goalkeepers, unlike every other player on the pitch, have to predict where the ball will go in order to block it, while also not having the freedom to run around the field to adjust as the ball flies. That means goalies often have the most complaints about a new design. “Every time there’s a World Cup and a new ball the goalkeepers complain, because they’ve been given a new ball,” says Goff.
It is a common misconception but, believe it or not, soccer was not actually invented in England. Although the sport, known across the pond as football, was revolutionized by the country in the mid-19th century, records actually trace its origin back over 2,000 years to ancient China. Called “association football” when it was played by the British 200 years ago, the terms “football” and “soccer” were both eventually derived from abbreviations of the longer name over time.
Controlling the game is everything. From touch, shape, and movement, to flight of the ball, the construction of your soccer ball can impact how well you command the pitch. Competitive soccer players usually have different types of soccer balls for training, match day or just to kick around. See the options below for choosing the right adidas soccer ball for your favorite type of play.