Soccer Player’s Buying Guide
You can play soccer without a shirt, you can play soccer without soccer shorts, and you can even play without shoes. But without the ball, there is no game. The ball is the only essential piece of equipment in the game of soccer; it is a necessity. As a soccer player you understand the importance of the ball, but do you know all you need to know about selecting and purchasing the ball that is right for you and your game. For example, why is the price of one soccer ball three times that of other balls? Why do you have that one ball in the bag of 10 that you always use in practice? What gives that particular ball the great touch that makes you search for it over the others? How should you take care of a soccer ball? In general, the better the ball, the truer the flight. This means the ball goes where you intend it to when you strike it. Durability is also an important factor when choosing a soccer ball.
Panels: Ultimately, this comes down to player preference. 32-panel is the most common and is used in the World Cup and most other major tournaments and leagues. Other designs include 18 and 26 panel. More recently, other panel shapes and configurations have come from manufacturers seeking better look and feel and truer flight.
Casing/Cover: There are three types of synthetic material used to make soccer balls: PVC (Poly Vinyl Carbonate), PU (Polyurethane) and PVC/PU mix. PVC is cheaper than PU and generally used in an inexpensive training ball. Those players seeking optimal performance generally use PU balls. Outside of price, the main difference between balls is touch. A PU ball is softer than a PVC ball and a PU cover makes a ball much livelier than PVC. It is this combination of soft touch and lively responsiveness that leads many players to choose a PU coated ball. It is usually that ball that is the first one out of the bag every time. It should also be noted that within PU and PVC families of materials there are various quality grades. Some great balls are made out of high-grade PVC.
Durability: Largely determined by the casing. As noted, PVC covers will last longer and do not scuff as easily as the softer PU, which will begin to show signs of wear more quickly. Glossy coatings are often used to aid in reducing water absorption and scuffing.
Bladder: The bladder is the part of the ball that is actually filled with air. There are two primary materials used for bladders: latex and butyl. Latex bladders are softer, with a better feel, and are preferred at higher levels. Latex bladders do not hold air as well as butyl and will require more frequent inflation. Many balls use butyl valves for better air retention.
The higher the level of competition, the more the price levels will increase.
For most players 12 years and older, size 5 is the standard. Junior players often play with a size four, check with officials to make sure. Only the youngest players use size 3. Mini balls are used for skill development and for fun. A size 5 is standard for most levels of adult play. Players under 12 years of age usually use a smaller sized ball. It’s always a good idea to ask your coach or manager what size is appropriate for your age level.
The ideal inflation for your ball is 9 to 10.5 pounds of air. Any more or less could damage the ball and affect your play.
Clean and dry your soccer ball after use. Better to keep balls (like other equipment) out of extreme conditions (hot, cold, or wet) and out of the direct sunlight. Note: the hot sun plus a hot car can spell the early death of your ball.