Ultimate Guide to Picking the Best Soccer Ball in 2020

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One of the reasons why soccer is the most popular sports in the world is because when you want to play with your friends, all you need is a ball. It’s truly the most inclusive game for everyone. When selecting a new ball it’s easy to get confused by different balls on the market when they all look about the same.

Before making a decision and buy a new ball, consider the following:

  • Will the ball be used for training sessions, match balls play, training balls or just messing around?
  • What size ball should you purchase?
  • How much are you willing to spend?

The following reviews will help break down the different options, and your answers to the  questions above will guide you to your final choice.

Best Soccer Ball Reviews

With the ridiculous number of soccer balls available on the market, what sets one apart from another? They’re all round. They’re all about the same size. Which one to choose? Don’t just look at the colors and patterns of the ball, make sure you check the different materials, size, and features on the box or in the online description.

Below are our reviews for what we feel are the best soccer balls for any soccer player and competition levels.

Brand
Top Pick
Perfect Soccer Ball
Best for the Money
​GoSports Premiere Soccer Ball
Best Cheap Pick
Wilson Traditional Soccer Ball
Product
Soccer Ball Size 5 - Premium Adult & Youth Soccer...
GoSports Premier Soccer Ball with Premium Pump,...
Wilson Traditional Soccer Ball - Size 4
Material
Synthetic leather
Synthetic leather
Synthetic leather
Size Range
5
3 - 5
3 - 5
Rating
Top Pick
Brand
Perfect Soccer Ball
Product
Soccer Ball Size 5 - Premium Adult & Youth Soccer...
Material
Synthetic leather
Size Range
5
Rating
Best for the Money
Brand
​GoSports Premiere Soccer Ball
Product
GoSports Premier Soccer Ball with Premium Pump,...
Material
Synthetic leather
Size Range
3 - 5
Rating
Best Cheap Pick
Brand
Wilson Traditional Soccer Ball
Product
Wilson Traditional Soccer Ball - Size 4
Material
Synthetic leather
Size Range
3 - 5
Rating

Best Soccer Ball Overall – Perfect Soccer Ball

When you name your product the Perfect Soccer Ball you have a lot to live up to. We feel the features of this ball are worthy of the highest pick in our list of top rated soccer balls. The manufacturer Perfect Soccer is a soccer training balls and equipment brand which is run by both active and former MLS and EPL professional soccer players, so they know the standards of excellent equipment..

Soccer Ball Size 5 - Premium Adult & Youth Soccer...

The Perfect Soccer Ball comes with a machine-stitched construction of PVC with a PU coating in the classic 32 panel design. This will give the ball great durability as well as a soft touch. The manufacturer has developed this ball to have the feel and characteristics of more expensive top of the line soccer balls.

Soccer Ball Size 5 - Premium Adult & Youth Soccer...
  • 4.7+ Out Of 5 Stars! Adult & Youth Soccer Balls Endorsed By Professional Soccer Player Quincy...
  • Machined-stitched construction ensures soft touch and high durability. Soccer Ball packs available...
  • Great for soccer training and practicing your soccer skills. Same ball the Pros Use!

This ball conforms to the official ball FIFA weight specification. Coming with a lifetime warranty, free online training sessions bonuses, and a carry bag (if you buy a 5- or 10-pack for team training), it is a great choice for anyone from beginners to advanced soccer players.

Product Specs
  • Size Range: 5
  • Weight: 15 oz
  • Cover Material: Synth leather
  • Bladder: Butyl rubber bladder for great air retention
  • Inflation: Ships inflated

Best Soccer Ball for the Money – GoSports Premier Ball with Premium Pump

For training and youth play, you need a training ball that will hold up to long hours of kicking, bouncing on walkways and parking lots, as well as being tossed around at home. The GoSports Premier Ball with Premium Pump is able to stand up to all this punishment and more. Add in the reasonable price and it’s worth it as a coach or a player.

GoSports Premier Soccer Ball with Premium Pump,...

This ball is a great all-around performance ball for any age athlete. The sizes available range from 3-5, so make sure you check with your coach for the correct size to purchase. Each size is official ball size and weight so they can be used in recreational games.

GoSports Premier Soccer Ball with Premium Pump,...
  • PREMIER TRAINING BALL: Machine stitched construction with internal butyl bladder for sustained...
  • SYNTHETIC LEATHER: Resists abrasions and provides optimum feel
  • PERFORMANCE BALL: Great all-around ball for training, scrimmages and games

With decent padding, a tough leather cover, and the bonus air pump, this great value ball comes also available in packs of 6 for team training. If you purchase the multi-pack, a free carry bag is included.

Product Specs
  • Size Range: 3 – 5
  • Weight: 14.36 oz
  • Cover Material: Synth leather
  • Bladder: Butyl bladder
  • Inflation: Ships deflated

Best Cheap Soccer Ball – Wilson Traditional Ball

The Wilson Traditional Soccer Ball looks exactly how you’d think one of the best classic soccer ball would look – white, paneled, with black panels evenly spaced around the ball. This is the soccer tradition in every sense of the word.

Wilson Traditional Soccer Ball - Size 4

This ball has a machine-sewn synthetic leather cover for increased durability and butyl rubber bladder for excellent air retention and shape retention. The classic black and white panel design makes it easier to see in flight, and to judge the spin when coming off an odd bounce.

Wilson Traditional Soccer Ball - Size 4
  • Synthetic leather cover for increased durability
  • Butyl rubber bladder for excellent air and shape retention
  • Traditional panel graphics with silver ACcents

Ready for use on the street, backyard, or pitch, this great choice for a cheap soccer ball deals well with abuse and flies true.

Product Specs
  • Size Range: 3 – 5
  • Weight: 11.20 oz
  • Cover Material: Synthetic leather
  • Bladder: Butyl bladder with great air retention
  • Inflation: Ships inflated

Best Nike Soccer Ball – NIKE EPL Strike Soccer Ball

Getting into brand-specific soccer and training balls, the Nike EPL Strike Soccer Ball is our choice as the best overall soccer ball from Nike. This great looking training soccer ball bases its “Visual Power Design” graphics on the official training soccer ball for the English Premier League and proudly displays their logo. Nike has been the Official Ball Supplier to the Premier League since the 2000/01 season.

Nike STRIKE Barclays Premier League 2018-2019 Size...

This version of the Strike has the popular 12-panel design for true and accurate flight. The durable synthetic cover has a textured casing. This doesn’t only give the ball a unique look, but also adds a slight bit of friction to help with touch and feel when dribbling or shooting.

Nike STRIKE Barclays Premier League 2018-2019 Size...
  • High-contrast graphics for easy ball tracking
  • Nike Aerowtrac grooves and 12-panel design for accurate ball flight
  • Reinforced rubber bladder for air and shape retention

Since the ball only has 12 panels, you may be wondering if it has the same flight characteristics of a 32 panels soccer ball? Nike has added what they call “Nike Aerowtrac” grooves to the surface of the ball to help stabilize the ball flight.

Product Specs
  • Size Range: 3 – 5
  • Weight: 15.50 oz
  • Cover Material: Synthetic leather
  • Bladder: Reinforced rubber with great air retention
  • Inflation: Ships deflated

Best Adidas Soccer Ball – adidas FIFA World Cup Top Glider Soccer Ball

Next on our list of brand-specific soccer, match and training balls is the Adidas Fifa World Cup Top Glider Soccer Ball. This is a replica of the official ball used in the 2018 FIFA World Cup held in Russia. The quality doesn’t quite reach that of the adidas World Cup Official Premium Match Balls, but for the price it is an excellent choice for someone who likes the same design.

adidas Unisex Telstar FIFA World Cup 2018...

The Top Glider has a machine-stitched TPU cover with 18 panels for a soft touch and durability during training. The surface is also slightly textured, adding ball control instead of slipping along your cleats. TPU covers also add excellent durability for use on more surfaces than just grass.

adidas Unisex Telstar FIFA World Cup 2018...
  • The ball is made of machine-stitched TPU for a soft touch and durability through training
  • Named the Russian word for "dream," the Telstar Mechta is a tribute to the road each player took to...
  • This football features the graphics of the knockout round ball, but with a machine-stitched TPU...

This ball is fairly light with just the right amount of surface padding to practice shooting and passing. The ball is fast and flies true when you strike it. As a kick-around ball it’s hard to find one with better quality for the same price.

Product Specs
  • Size Range: 3 – 5
  • Weight: 15.80 oz
  • Cover Material: TPU
  • Bladder: Butyl bladder for excellent air retention
  • Inflation: Ships deflated

Best Size 4 Soccer Ball – American Challenge Brasilia Soccer Ball

When looking for a smaller ball for kids, sometimes you consider finding a smaller replica of your favorite ball. In almost all cases, it will work out better if you find a soccer ball meant for children. The American Brasilia Soccer Ball is one such product.

American Challenge Brasilia Soccer Ball (Orange,...

This is a great youth ball. The outer casing is made from highly durable 3.255mm TPU and available in vibrant colors. Underneath the casing are two layers of polyester/cotton lining for padding. It is specified in the listing that this ball is made specifically for grass fields, but the outer layer should hold up fairly well in artificial grass as well.

Sale
American Challenge Brasilia Soccer Ball (Orange,...
  • OUTER CASING MATERIAL: 3.25mm TPU material -BACKING MATERIAL: 2 layers of poly/cotton lining
  • STITCHING: Machine stitched - BLADDER: Hybrid SR bladder
  • This ball was designed for grass fields

American Challenge uses the classic 32 panels design to keep the ball’s shape and ensure an even ball flight. The Hybrid SR Bladder is very strong with an air retention of 2-4 weeks while not compromising bounce. The outside is shiny, so scuffs from street play may show up fairly easily.

Product Specs
  • Size Range: 2 – 5
  • Weight: 14.40 oz
  • Cover Material: TPU
  • Bladder: Hybrid SR bladder for strong air retention
  • Inflation: Ships deflated

Best Size 5 Soccer Ball – Under Armour Desafio 395 Soccer Ball

The Under Armour Desafio 395 Soccer Ball is another 32-panel ball, but this one adds some new subtle features to the design. They call it UA touchskin technology, and it gives you an excellent feel and touch.

Under Armour Desafio 395 Soccer Ball, Size 4

The main part of UA touchskin technology is the PU (Polyurethane) cover meant for a stronger power transfer. This is backed by an SBR foam layer for added softness, cushioning the foot as you strike it and making for more confident dribbling. The high rebound rubber bladder makes this a jumpy soccer ball great for striking.

Under Armour Desafio 395 Soccer Ball, Size 4
  • UA TOUCHSKIN technology delivers excellent feel & a soft touch
  • PU cover for power transfer
  • High rebound rubber bladder provides great touch & control

As with other 32-panel soccer balls, the Desafio displays a precise flight path and maintains its shape well over time.

Product Specs
  • Size Range: 3 – 5
  • Weight: 14.90 oz
  • Cover Material: PU
  • Bladder: High rebound rubber
  • Inflation: Ships inflated

Best Premium Soccer Ball – adidas World Cup Official Match Balls

The Adidas World Cup Official Match Ball (also known as the Telstar 18) is, as you would think, the actual ball used in the 2018 FIFA World Cup. The name “Telstar” is a reference to the first World Cup match balls that adidas made back in 1970. That soccer ball was revolutionary at the time, being the first ball designed with black and white panels, specifically to help it show up better on television screens.

adidas World Cup 2018 Omb Soccer Ball Pro...

Instead of the standard stitched panels that most soccer balls are made of, this new version has 6 panels seamlessly held together thermally bonded. The lack of seams means this ball will be water-tight, so it is an excellent choice when playing in the rain or other harsh weather. The TPU/Polyester hybrid cover is flexible and durable.

The surface of the ball is the slightest bit slick, but scientifically aligned grooves and an added microtexture help keep the ball on your foot when dribbling and shooting.

At the core of the Telstar 18 is a latex bladder. A latex bladder is a much higher quality bladder than the standard butyl bladders found in lower priced training balls. The elasticity of a latex bladder makes shots hit harder and bounces go higher.

adidas World Cup 2018 Omb Soccer Ball Pro...
  • New six panel design with a seamless, thermal-bonded construction
  • Distinct 3-D texture for greater control and grip
  • New carcass construction inside for greater force distribution on shots

Embedded in this latex bladder ball is an NFC chip which, when connected to a smartphone, will give you some information on where and how the ball was tapped.

This is an extremely well-made ball from the highest-profile competition in the world. If you don’t mind spending the money, it is one of the best quality with a latex bladder you can find.

Product Specs
  • Size Range: 5
  • Weight: 12.80 oz
  • Cover Material: TPU, Polyester
  • Bladder: Latex
  • Inflation: Ships deflated

Honorable Mention – Franklin Sports Competition F-100 Soccer Ball

If you just want a basic, no-frills soccer ball for a low price, check out the Franklin Sports Competition 100 Soccer Ball. This ball is great for children with its PVC cover. While TPU provides great durability, the high gloss sponge PVC cover on the F-100 should last long enough that your kid will outgrow it.

Franklin Sports Soccer Balls - Size 5 F-100 Soccer...

In addition to holding up to everyday use, this soccer ball can be used in all weather conditions from rain, to sun, to snow. You would think that with such an armored shell this ball would be hard, but it has a foam cushioning system underneath the hard outer casing.

Sale
Franklin Sports Soccer Balls - Size 5 F-100 Soccer...
  • SOFT COVER: The foam cushioning system gives these soccer balls a soft, responsive feel which will...
  • ALL-WEATHER PVC COVER: The PVC ball covering makes this ball water resistant so you can be confident...
  • OFFICIAL SIZES : Comes in sizes 3,4, and 5 with precise stitching and official sizing so it can be...

This is a long lasting ball but only drops down to our “honorable mention” list because the surface is very slick, limiting your control when dribbling.

Product Specs
  • Size Range: 35
  • Weight: 13.60 oz
  • Cover Material: Sponge PVC
  • Bladder: Butyl bladdder
  • Inflation: Can ship inflated/deflated

Honorable Mention – Champion Sports Extreme Series Composite Soccer Ball

Another example of an amazingly durable ball, the Champion Sports Extreme Series Soccer Ball boasts that it will perform under any conditions: all terrain, all weather, all skill levels. This ball is available in an assortment of solid colors from yellow to black, presumably to show up better in extreme conditions like snow.

Champion Sports Extreme Series Soccer Ball, Size 3...

The cover is made from soft-touch composite TPU. This hybrid of soft and hard silicone allows for smooth handling and less chance of injury and inaccurate ball travel. The patented panels are sewn together with a machine-stitch technique. A standard butyl bladder doesn’t add anything new to the design, but it’s a time-tested technology that will retain air well and give adequate bounce.

Champion Sports Extreme Series Soccer Ball, Size 3...
  • ALL PURPOSE, ALL WEATHER, ALL FUN: This soccer ball is perfect for beginner to mid-level athletes....
  • SOFT TOUCH COMPOSITE: Unlike many kids soccer balls that have no give, the Champion Sports dribble...
  • QUALITY YOU CAN SEE AND FEEL: When you use our premium, youth-regulated soccer ball, you will notice...

This isn’t a ball we would recommend for play at a high level because of the slick outer shell, but for everyone else this will do the trick. This is also a great budget soccer ball option and the ability to play in the rain without it getting waterlogged is an excellent benefit.

Product Specs
  • Size Range: 3 – 5
  • Weight: 11.20 oz
  • Cover Material: TPU
  • Bladder: Butyl bladdder
  • Inflation: Ships deflated

Honorable Mention – Mikasa Serious Soccer Ball

The primary selling point of the Mikasa Serious Soccer Ball is the soft, forgiving leather cover. This is stitched in a 32-panel design to keep its shape and for a predictable trajectory.

Mikasa Serious Soccer Ball (Black/White, Size 4)

For a confident touch, easier headers, and ball control, leather is a much better option that the TPU soccer balls you see at this price point.

Sale
Mikasa Serious Soccer Ball (Black/White, Size 4)
  • The black, silver, and white design encases a butyl bladder for maximum air retention, making it...
  • 1-year warranty
  • Ball ships deflated. Inflation is required. Pump not included.

A butyl bladder has good air retention, and the blend of a slick design on top of classic construction will appeal to more players who are looking for something a little less flashy. In addition, a slick feature hides the air retention system within the black and white design.

Product Specs
  • Size Range: 35
  • Weight: 12.80 oz
  • Cover Material: Synth leather
  • Bladder: Butyl bladdder
  • Inflation: Ships deflated

Best Size 3 Soccer Ball – Adidas Performance Starlancer V 

adidas Performance Starlancer V Soccer Ball,...

If you are someone that’s just beginning to learn the game, you might find the Adidas Performance Starlancer V soccer ball a great asset for practice and play. The ball features alternating hexagons with the traditional pentagon-panel design to help you understand how to place your foot on the ball. 

The machine-stitched design offers good durability. Thus, we found the Adidas ball to be true to form when it comes to shooting, crossing and passing drills. The machine stitching construction is robust and offers long-lasting performance to make sure you enjoy the game. 

Additionally, the butyl bladder makes this soccer ball firm. However, you will have to ensure the ball is inflated properly. The ball may feel hard on your ankle and foot if it’s inflated a little. Over-inflation can also affect the movement of this soccer ball.

Moreover, each size works well whether it is a size 3, 4 or 5, the Adidas Starlancer will perform as you expect. This allows novice players at any age to get a feel of what it is like to play with the ball. If you are looking for a great beginner ball that you can use on the practice pitch, then the Adidas V is an excellent choice to consider.

Product Specs
  • Size Range: 3-5
  • Cover Material: TPU cover exterior
  • Bladder: Butyl bladder
  • Inflation: Ships deflated
adidas Performance Starlancer V Soccer Ball,...
  • Quickly control the ball and precisely pass and shoot; great ball for a beginning or young athlete
  • Machine stitched construction and internal nylon wound carcass for maximum durability and...
  • Special TPU exterior material is designed to resist abrasion and last longer. Butyl bladder for...

Best Numero Soccer Ball  – Select Numero 10

Select Numero 10 Sz 5 NFHS (EA)

The Select Numero 10 soccer ball uses the 32-panel design for added durability. However, we realized that some of the panels may begin to show some wear on the cover if you ring a shot with this ball regularly. 

Still, the numero 10 is one of the best designs for a high-quality soccer ball. The panels are made of extra-thick PU material that feels like leather.

Although the thickness makes the ball highly durable, it means there is also some break-in time. When you fill the Select soccer ball with air for the first time, you will notice how hard it gets. 

This is because there is no padding or form on this ball. However, once you give it several hard strikes the ball will feel better. 

Select has equipped this ball with a special PU cover to allow the Numero 10 to mimic quality without the high-end price of a quality ball. Any artificial or natural soccer pitch is ideal for this ball to enable you to develop your skills. However, you should avoid using this ball on rough ground.

While shopping, it’s crucial to check the seams of the ball. We found the stitching to be extremely good. However, some players have complained that the ball tends to lose air pressure because of improperly stitched panels. So, you should check the seams before use to ensure durable performance.

Product Specs
  • Size Range: 4– 5
  • Cover Material: Synth leather
  • Bladder: Zero-Wing bladder
  • Inflation: Ships deflated
Select Numero 10 Sz 5 NFHS (EA)
  • The optimal price/performance soccer ball
  • NCAA and NFHS approved; Made with FPUS 1500 synthetic leather
  • 1.5mm hand-sewn PU cover with zero-wing bladder for optimal bounce

Soccer Ball Features and Considerations

When looking to purchase a new soccer ball, whether it’s for your own pickup games or as a practice ball for your child, it’s important to know the different sizes and features available in order to best meet your needs. Good soccer balls have the right balance of feel, spring, and durability.

Man pushing the soccer ball on the grass

Soccer Ball Different Sizes

Different age groups require different sized soccer balls. The age and size recommendations below can vary between different leagues, so be sure to check with your coach or organization to help with your decision.

  • Size 1: Also known as a “skills” ball, size 1 balls are not used in competition, but mainly as toys, souvenirs, or as a training ball.
  • Size 2: Not an official designation for competition, the size 2 ball is normally purchased for a toddler to learn the most basic skills.
  • Size 3 (Junior): Recommended for ages 8 and under in both practice and competition. The circumference is between 23”-24”. The smaller size allows for smaller players to get a handle on ball control and shooting without wrestling with a larger, heavier ball.
  • Size 4 (Youth): This size ball bridges the gap between adult and beginner sizes, recommended for ages 8-12. As youth players get bigger, they need a soccer ball that has a little more size to it, but not so big that they can’t control it or hit it without power. They have a 25”-26” circumference.
  • Size 5 (Adult): Once you get past the age of 12, you use a size 5, the same ball is used in all competitions. With a circumference of 27”-28”, smaller players won’t be able to control a size 5 ball as well, and can actually hurt themselves when trying to kick a size 5 ball with force, especially if they strike them with their toes.

Something to note: if you or your child are playing Futsal (an indoor soccer version played on a basketball court), futsal balls sizing is different. They are normally marked as “Senior” or “Junior.” Senior are about the size of a standard size 4 soccer ball, and Junior are about the size of a size 3.

Different Types of Soccer Balls

There are different quality levels and types of soccer balls, and it’s good to know what you actually need before purchasing.

Training Soccer Balls

The most common quality level of soccer balls, the training soccer balls are normally made of a more resilient material meant to stand up to frequent practices. They won’t have quite the better touch or consistency of a match ball, but this difference is made up for with its lower cost.

Most youth players and junior soccer balls will fall into this category, however there are match balls that come in a size 4.

Match Soccer Balls

A Match ball is a higher quality ball that are meant to be used in competition. A match ball is made out of better materials to allow for smoother touches, harder shots, and a more consistent trajectory. The covers of a match ball are often made of leather to feel better on the foot.

College and high school soccer leagues have strict requirements on the size and weight of the match ball being used in official competitions. They each have a voluntary match ball certification program, and any match ball that has gone through this certification receive a stamp.

Not all soccer balls that meet requirements have the stamp, but it’s a good idea to check with your particular organization to see if your match ball is acceptable for match play soccer without the stamp.

NCAA approved soccer balls for college play must meet the following standards:

  • The circumference of the match ball shall not be more than 28 inches nor less than 27 inches.
  • The weight of the match ball at the start of the game shall not be more than 16 ounces nor less than 14 ounces, and the weight shall not exceed 16.75 ounces even when wet and used.
  • The pressure of the ball shall be 8.8 to 16.2 psi.
  • Ball pressure shall conform to the manufacturer’s recommendation.
  • The ball shall be spherical, the outer casing of which shall be leather or approved synthetic.
  • No material shall be used in its construction that might prove dangerous to players.
Close up of white soccer ball

NFHS approved best soccer balls for high school play must meet the following standards:

  • The circumference of the best soccer balls cannot be more than 28 inches nor less than 27 inches.
  • The outer casing of the best soccer balls must be leather or approved synthetic, and it must be weather/rain resistant.
  • The best soccer balls must be spherical.
  • The weight of the best soccer balls at the start of the game cannot be more than 16 ounces nor less than 14 ounces.

Premium Match Soccer Balls

Premium match soccer balls are used at the highest levels of professional and international soccer, such as the FIFA World Cup, UEFA Champions League, Premier League, La Liga, and the MSL.

These premium match balls are subject to approval by FIFA, the international governing body of soccer, and require them to go through certification. Products that gain this certification are the best soccer balls available in the world, and their prices reflect that.

In the IFAB Rulebook, the ball must be:

  • Spherical
  • Made of suitable material
  • Of a circumference of between 70 cm (28 ins) and 68 cm (27 ins)
  • Between 450 g (16 oz) and 410 g (14 oz) in weight at the start of the match
  • Of a pressure equal to 0.6 –1.1 atmosphere (600 –1,100 g/cm2) at sea level (8.5 lbs/sq in –15.6 lbs/sq in)

In addition, the ball must bear one of the following certification marks:

  • FIFA Quality PRO
  • FIFA Quality
  • IMS – INTERNATIONAL MATCH STANDARD

Soccer Ball Construction

The traditional (and most common) structure of a soccer ball is made up of 32 panels stitched together – 20 hexagons and 12 pentagons. The support spread around the sphere creates even support from the interior pressure created from inflating the ball, as well as external pressure from bouncing and kicks.

Originally hand sewn, this design is now mostly performed mechanically with machine-stitching. Hand-stitched balls are still available but can carry a higher price tag than machine-stitched versions. You can often tell a hand-stitched soccer ball by the deeper seams in between its panels. Some players prefer the feel of these balls as they tend to be a bit softer, but consistency can sometimes be an issue in lower priced items.

Newer soccer ball designs have fewer panels, sometimes 12, all the way down to 4. To get the same amount of evenness as a 32 panel ball, these panels have to be scientifically planned to maintain even pressure along the entire sphere.

Balls with newer designs tend to be more expensive since the patterns and sewing (or thermal bonding) methods demand new tooling and manufacturing procedures, whereas 32 panel best soccer balls have been around for longer.

One of the newer methods of holding a soccer ball’s panels together is thermal bonding. This process uses heat (and sometimes adhesive) to bond the panels together, creating a seal that is water absorption resistant or even waterproof depending on the outer cover material. Companies like adidas do this in a “spherical mold” to ensure that the ball is shaped perfectly.

Soccer Ball Cover Materials

The first widely available best soccer balls were made of a rubber bladder with a leather or similar animal skin cover. With the advent of man-made materials, manufacturers soon realized that a synthetic covering will help the ball last longer, allow for different types of texture for touch, create more powerful strikes, and have more consistent aerodynamics.

Synthetic Leather

Let’s face it, natural leather makes a great looking ball, but it has limitations. A leather soccer ball can get waterlogged very easily in wet conditions, they’re easily scuffed, panels get torn,  they don’t hold up well over a long period of time, and have a tendency to get lopsided as the leather stretches unevenly.

This material helps, or even solves, most of these issues. The best leather soccer balls feel as good or better than natural leather. They hold up better when playing on a wet field and don’t lose its shape over time.

Leather soccer balls have the best feel of the main types of man-made covers. They do have a downside – even though they are more durable than natural leather, they don’t hold up to abuse as well as their counterparts below.

PU (or Polyurethane)

Polyurethane soccer balls are a good balance between longevity and touch quality. They are normally softer than PVC and feel better coming off the foot, but not quite as good as a leather ball.

There may be a glossy coating over the cover of a PU ball. A thin layer is often added to help prevent water absorption. Higher level balls that use this cover material for water absorption often have a texture added to increase handling ability.

PVC (or Polyvinyl Chloride)

PVC is the least expensive material used in the construction of a soccer ball cover, unless it is combined with other polymers or rubbers as a hybrid. This material is the most durable and damage resistant of all the soccer ball materials.

Balls made with a PVC cover are generally the only ones that advertise themselves as being “all weather” capable.

The high durability of PVC best soccer balls also comes at a price. Since the material is stiffer and more resilient, it doesn’t provide the same soft touch as PU or leather.

This is generally offset by the manufacturer adding additional padding between the cover and the bladder.

Soccer Ball Bladder materials

The air inside of a soccer ball is held in with a bladder. A soccer ball bladder can be made from a few different materials, each having their benefits and drawbacks. All of them are a huge step above the soccer ball’s ancestor that was filled with cork shavings.

Latex or Rubber Bladder

At the high end of the scale, a soccer ball with a latex or rubber bladder will have the best feel. The increased spring and forgiving feel make these balls seem to jump off a player’s foot. You will generally find these types of bladders in match soccer ball and premium match balls.

One of the downsides of latex and rubber bladders is that they don’t retain air or hold their shape as well as butyl bladders. After a lot of use you may find that it is hard to keep the ball fully inflated for longer periods of time.

White soccer ball in the middle of the field

Butyl Bladder

Butyl is a synthetic rubber that is impermeable to air. This makes it the perfect material for something like a soccer ball, where unexpected leaking can ruin an entire afternoon. Balls made out of this material aren’t quite as springy as the best soccer balls with a latex or rubber bladder, and the cheaper ones may have a “dead ball” feel to them when trying to strike them with a lot of force.

How to Care for Your Soccer Ball

Regardless how much you pay for your new soccer ball, you’ll want it to last as long as it possibly can. Taking proper care of the ball before and after use is just as important as taking care of it on the pitch.

Inflation

The most important part of soccer ball maintenance is inflating it with the proper amount of pressure. You don’t need an expensive air pump for this, but it’s worth spending a few extra dollars for an air pressure gauge. As an inexpensive option we recommend the Franklin Sports Ball Maintenance Kit which contains a pump, needles, & pressure gauge.

Pressure can be measured in BAR or PSI. Be sure your pressure gauge has both – balls made in the USA will normally have measurements in PSI, and European models in BAR.

Every ball should have the appropriate pressure range listed next to the valve opening. This is generally around 9 – 12 PSI, or 0.6 – 0.8 BAR. Find your comfort level within that range. You can use the ball below that range, but it’s important not to overfill – too much pressure may cause early failure of the bladder.

Cleaning and Storage

It’s a good idea to thoroughly clean your ball after every use, but this can be tiresome. We would recommend wiping it down with a damp cloth after a normal practice or game, and then cleaning it thoroughly after games in dirt or mud.

If you have time to let it dry before its next use, grab a wet, soapy sponge and wipe off all the things that shouldn’t be there. Avoid using harsh chemicals or scrubbers – they can wear down the surface coating, allowing the ball to break down more quickly.

Extreme changes in temperature can also affect a soccer ball. Don’t leave it out in the sun or in your car when it’s sunny out. Heat will make the air inside the bladder expand, often beyond its rating. UV rays can cause discoloration and crack the cover after long exposure.

Cold can also hasten your soccer ball’s demise. Freezing breaks down chemical bonds, and rapid deflation from cold can delaminate the bladder, padding, and cover.

Don’t Sit on the Ball!

One of the most common ways that a ball loses its shape is from someone sitting on it. You wouldn’t think that the weight of a child could make a ball lopsided, but it happens all the time.

History of the Soccer Ball

The first official specifications for the best soccer balls were recorded in 1863 by the Football Association (FA), the governing body of English football. The basics then were about the same as they are now: spherical, with a circumference between 27 and 28 inches. The balls then were made out of leather with rubber bladders.

Vulcanized rubber became more popular in soccer ball construction around the early 1900’s, creating a bouncier ball that could be kicked further. Unfortunately, they were painful when performing a header, mainly due to the heavy stitching, as well as additional weight from the leather absorbing water.

The 32-panel ball, a construction method still used today, was first marketed by Select in the 1960’s. The truncated icosahedron design is rumored to have been created by an American architect, Richard Buckminster Fuller. His geodesic dome designs, unfortunately, were based on triangles, which are not part of the traditional soccer ball construction.

Adidas gave us the iconic white ball with black panels at the FIFA World Cup in 1970, specifically designed so that the ball would be more visible for people watching on a television screen.

In the mid-80’s, synthetic materials began to take over from the leather cover. Up to that point players thought that synthetic covers just weren’t as good as leather, and they were correct.

When better materials were invented, the quality of the synthetic covered balls increased tremendously.

White and blue soccer ball in a net

Current soccer ball manufacturers are still creating new ways to put together the best soccer ball. New panel designs, materials, and outer coatings are being released every year. Higher level balls have completely done away with stitching in favor of thermal bonding. Tests are performed in laboratories with tools like wind tunnels.

Considering the worldwide love of soccer, advancement in its core piece, the soccer ball, can only make the game better.

Conclusion

The best soccer ball for you will make you more confident when playing and practicing. Whether it’s the feel of the ball or just the way it looks, the right ball really does make a difference. Using the same ball every time you practice also helps a lot, when you already know how the ball is going to react, it will help in getting your moves and shots more consistent.

Be sure to get the correct ball for your needs. When buying for a young child who is just starting the game, go ahead and look for a less expensive option. If they continue playing, they will need to move up to the next size in a few years old anyway.

If buying for yourself, what are your goals? What level do you play soccer at? What kind of surface and weather will you be facing? Take all of these into account and you’ll make a more informed decision instead of just buying the best looking soccer ball you can find.