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The soccer ball is one of the most ubiquitous ball’s across the world. Its origins are storied and its modern requirements intriguing. You’ll probably be surprised to hear how soccer balls are made today, and be fascinated by the pentagonal design that most balls take on. If you’re wondering what size you should get for your kid, or how much the ball should weigh, we put together a comprehensive breakdown of soccer ball facts.
When was the First Soccer Ball Invented?
As the world’s most popular sport, soccer has a storied and lengthy history. At the root of that history is the evolution of the soccer ball. Comparatively speaking, today’s soccer balls are amazing in relation to the first options that people had.
To define when the first soccer ball was invented, you first have to make a decision about what qualifies as a “ball.” Ancient cultures used (distant) variations of the soccer ball to play sport, starting with the Chinese and carrying through with the Egyptians, Mayans, Aztecs, and Greeks.
These ball variations ranged from linen pouches with seeds to even human skulls. Yes, you read that correctly – the Mayans would play a version of soccer with human skulls, kicking them from town to town. Can you imagine trying to do a header with that kind of ball?
As the soccer ball developed, the most common way to make it became using inflated pig’s bladders subsequently wrapped in leather. This went on for many generations, until a household name came along and invented rubber.
The first true soccer ball as we know it was invented by Charles Goodyear in 1855. After introducing vulcanized rubber to the world in 1844, the rubber soccer ball was a natural progression.
Around a decade later, H.J. Lindon updated the design by using an inflatable bladder made of rubber, making the ball more spherical and lightweight, allowing you to kick the ball longer and further. It wasn’t long after that that English Football Association standardized how soccer balls were made.
How Much Does a Soccer Ball Weigh?
FIFA mandates that all size 5 soccer balls weigh between 14 ounces to 16 ounces. In grams, this weight is 420 grams to 450 grams.
The ball’s weight is measured at the start of a match, and typically can gain weight as the game is played. This is especially true on a wet day, where the ball gets waterlogged.
The weight of the soccer ball has to do with several components:
- Material and Construction: Older soccer ball designs made of bladders and true leather weighed a lot more. Synthetic leather and rubber bladders have helped soccer balls to weigh a lot less nowadays.
- Inflation: FIFA also regulates how inflated a soccer ball needs to be, measuring at 0.8 bar of pressure, or 11.5 PSI.
Just in case you’re interested, a size 4 soccer ball should weigh between 12.35 ounces to 13.75 ounces, or 350 grams to 390 grams.
Why is a Soccer Ball Black and White?
Believe it or not, the classic black and white soccer ball wasn’t invented until the 1970 World Cup, hosted in Mexico. This version was called the Telstar and was made by Adidas specifically for the World Cup.
Afterwards, the version became very popular and ubiquitous with what a soccer ball looks like. Adidas made this black and white pattern due to the rise of watching soccer on television.
At that time, most American’s still had black and white televisions, and watching a fast moving game of soccer was difficult, due to the inability to consistently locate the ball on the TV screen.
The black and white design made the ball stand out at all times, and was an instant hit. This was also the first soccer ball to use the classic truncated icosahedron design to the panels.
In layman’s terms, it is the combination of 12 pentagons and 20 hexagons to make up the soccer ball face.
Nowadays, most professional, match quality soccer balls aren’t black and white any longer. Most soccer leagues use bright colored balls with different designs on them.
How is a Soccer Ball Made?
While they have their origins in human skulls and animal bladders, the modern soccer ball on the market is a lot more sophisticated and refined.
In essence, a soccer ball is comprised of an inner air bladder and outer synthetic covering.
The process for making a soccer ball is:
- Natural or synthetic rubber is heated and placed into a circular mold to construct the proper shape.
- The synthetic leather that is used for the outside of the ball has a layer of cloth attached to the backside of it. This is done with latex adhesive, and a ball can have several layers of cloth attached to it.
- The leather/cloth material is die cut into hexagon panels to be used for stitching.
- Certain panels are imprinted with logos, emblems, etc.
- 32 panels and the bladder are then taken and stitched together by hand. Once sewed, the ball is pumped up to ensure it can take and hold air.
In case you’re wondering if there was a typo in there… YES, soccer balls are still made by hand. As a matter of fact, most are made in Pakistan, still using somewhat rudimentary technology.
What is the Circumference of a Soccer Ball?
This is where you’ll really see the difference in the various ranges of soccer ball sizes.
- A size 5 soccer ball has a circumference ranging between 27 inches to 28 inches.
- A size 4 soccer ball has a circumference ranging between 25 inches to 26 inches.
- A size 3 soccer ball has a circumference ranging between 23 inches to 24 inches.
How many Pentagons are on a Soccer Ball?
Technically speaking, there are several ways to answer that question. Hang with us while we give you a thorough by succinct answer.
The classic soccer ball has a total of 32 panels: 12 of which are pentagons and 20 of which are hexagons. This is commonly referred to as a truncated icosahedron, which is a very fancy geometric definition that for these types of circle designs.
This means that soccer ball paneling ends up with 90 vertices and 60 edges. That’s a lot for a relatively small round ball!
In recent years, Adidas has created a new style of ball, starting with the 2006 World Cup. This soccer ball only has 14 panels. Then, Adidas released an eight panel soccer ball for the 2010 World Cup, and a six panel version for the 2014 World Cup. See why we said there are multiple answers to this question?
Incidentally, the feedback has not been all that positive from players and coaches to these new designs, with reports that the ball does not travel consistently in the air. These claims seem to be backed by research studies, so it will be interesting to see where Adidas goes with their soccer ball designs.
What Soccer Ball Size Should Be Used for Kids?
If you’re a bit confused by the various soccer ball sizes available to you, we’ve broken down each age group and which ball they should use.
- 12 years old and above: Size 5 – this is the official adult sized soccer ball, and is used in matches for ages 12 and above.
- U12 (11 year old): Size 4
- U11 (10 year old): Size 4
- U10 (9 year old): Size 4
- U9 (8 year old): Size 3
- U8 (7 year old): Size 3
- U7 (6 year old): Size 3
- U6 (5 year old): Size 3
- U5 (4 year old): Size 3 or Size 2 – Size 2 isn’t an officially recognized size by might be more suitable for children 4 and under when they are practicing.
For such a seemingly simple ball, the soccer ball has a fascinating and intriguing range of facts associated with it. We hope you enjoyed learning about its history, construction, makeup, and dimensions.