What is a Soccer Ball Made Of?

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Written by Daniel Pena, Bachelors in Kinesiology and footballer: Learn More

What is a soccer ball made of? The soccer ball is one of the most essential pieces of soccer equipment and if you are planning on buying a new ball it is important to know what materials soccer balls are made of.

The way soccer balls are made and the materials used to make them may differ slightly from brand to brand and model to model, but in general they are all made almost the same. In this blog we will explain everything you need to know about what a soccer ball is made of.

Image by Wesly Tingey

What are the main parts of a soccer ball?

To begin, it is important to understand that a soccer ball has five main parts:

  • The outer casing
  • The inner linings
  • The bladder
  • The stitching
  • The valve

Outer Casing

The outer casing, also known as the outer cover or the outermost part of a soccer ball, plays a huge role in its performance and durability and most soccer balls are made from either polyurethane (PU) or polyvinyl chloride (PVC). These two outer covers provide the necessary protection and shape retention for soccer balls used in various settings, from professional matches to recreational pickup games.

Polyurethane

Polyurethane (PU) is the higher end option for soccer ball outer casings that offers excellent durability and resistance to wear and tear as well as a synthetic leather feel. PU is the preferred choice for high-quality soccer balls used in top-flight competitions like the FIFA World Cup and Champions League.

Polyvinyl chloride

On the other hand, Polyvinyl Chloride (PVC) covers are commonly found in balls designed for indoor soccer or as well as cheaper soccer balls, and although this material is not as high-quality as PU, it is still a great option.

Inner Lining

The inner lining of soccer balls, positioned between the bladder and outer cover, are mostly made from cotton and polyester.

In professional soccer balls, like those used during the FIFA World Cup, the inner lining is made of multiple layers, often incorporating four layers of polyester and cotton. Lower quality soccer balls will usually have only two layers of polyester and cotton.

Cotton contributes softness, enhancing ball control and touch, while polyester ensures durability and responsiveness. This combination results in a soccer ball that meets the rigorous demands of high level games

Bladder

The bladder of a soccer ball serves as the container for air, crucial for maintaining the ball’s proper shape, bounce, and air pressure.

Butyl is the most common bladder material due to its durability and exceptional air retention capabilities. However, butyl’s disadvantage includes becoming easily deformed when kicked too much, which is why most practice balls, or cheaper balls, will be made of Butyl.

Latex bladders are more high quality than Butyl and they are favored at the professional level for their superior responsiveness. However, latex bladders require frequent inflation as they tend to lose air faster than butyl bladders.

For indoor soccer and futsal, where you need balls that are not too bouncy, foam-filled bladders are used instead of traditional air-filled bladders made from butyl or latex.

The Stitching

The stitching of a soccer ball is a crucial component responsible for holding its panels together. Professional-grade soccer balls mainly feature stitches made from polyester, a durable and non-absorbent material.

However, sometimes Kevlar thread may be used for added durability and water resistance, which can enhance the ball’s longevity and performance. In addition, in recent times an alternative stitching method, known as thermal heating, has become very popular.

Thermal heating involves using heat to bond the panels of the balls together. This technique, now common to use during major important tournaments, results in smoother and more accurate balls due to the absence of visible stitches.

Valve

The valve of a soccer ball serves as the entry point for inflating the ball with air, as well as deflating it if necessary.

The valves of most soccer balls are made from butyl, a rubber material known for its elasticity and durability, that allows the valve to easily open when the air pump needle is inserted. Also, butyl’s elastic properties enable the valve to seal completely shut once the pump needle is removed, ensuring minimal air loss over time.

Although most valves are made from butyl, in recent years, many professional-grade soccer balls have transitioned to silicone valves due to their superior air retention capabilities.

What is a Soccer Ball Made Of Image by Marcel Straub

Frequently Asked Questions

What are modern soccer balls made of?

Soccer balls used to be made from pure leather, however pure leather has poor water resistance and can make the soccer ball really heavy, since it soaks up all the water, when playing in wet weather conditions. As a result, modern soccer balls that are FIFA approved are now made with enhanced water resistance materials such as Polyurethane (PU).

What is the difference between an indoor soccer ball and a traditional soccer ball?

An indoor soccer ball is different from a traditional soccer ball for many reasons. They are typically smaller, heavier, and have less bounce than traditional balls. A lot of indoor soccer balls are also made from the same materials that a tennis ball is made of. Smart soccer balls are also a relatively new type of soccer ball that merge technology with the beautiful game.

What are the most popular soccer ball manufacturers?

There are many different soccer ball manufacturers each with their own manufacturing process and the most common are Nike, Adidas, Puma, Wilson, Select, and Umbro.

Conclusion

In this blog we answered in great detail what a soccer ball is made of and more specifically we went over the five main parts of a soccer ball. The soccer ball is arguably the most important piece of soccer equipment and it is important to play with the right size soccer ball and with a ball made from the right materials based on the surface you want to play on.

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