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.
Built for durability, recreation balls are made of soft synthetic materials for play on nearly any field. Typically, these balls are slightly heavier for beginner’s slower play, yet, competitors of all skill levels use these balls for practice and recreation on hard turf fields due to their resilience. Machine-stitching is the most stand-out visual difference between match balls and training balls and it offers a consistent touch for any player.
In 1937, the regulation soccer ball put on a little weight, increasing from 13-15 ounces to 14-16 ounces. Soccer balls used to be made exclusively of leather. Not so these days! Current technologies have come up with leather-like synthetic materials that are softer, more lightweight, water-proof, and perform as well if not better than leather soccer balls. As for the look, early soccer balls were tan but difficult to see from the stands; although white leather-washed soccer balls are known to have been used. White soccer balls replaced their tan predecessors in the 1950s, and were composed of 18 panels. Black spots were added to allow soccer players to track the ball's swerve. Today's soccer balls come in an array of colorful designs and styles to suit every player.
Although the length of kick may end up being a little shorter, the changes make the Telstar 18 more balanced, says Alam. On other balls, Alam and his team have found that there is a difference in how the ball flies based on where it’s kicked in relation to the seams. His tests have found that the Telstar 18 ball doesn’t have as much variation. The total length of seam of the Telstar 18 is 14.1 feet, 3.28 feet more than on the Brazuca. With the longer seam, and more symmetric panels, no matter how the ball is turned there is the same amount of seam exposed. “The other two balls were not like that, they were significantly different,” he says.