football4th April 2016.
Whether you want to train your kids to play like the best footballers from Barcelona FC or Bayern Munich, or are joining a hobbyist soccer league for yourself, one of the first things you'll need to buy is a high-quality football. When you first start playing football, you can make do without the right boots/cleats/shoes or the ideal shorts or jerseys. Without a proper soccer ball, though, you can't start playing the game or learning the basics. Luckily, this guide is here to answer all of the questions you might have about purchasing the right ball for the job.

The Basics

Casual soccer fans, or even some die-hard supporters who have never played the game themselves, may think that all footballs are more or less the same. This belief isn't true, of course. Different soccer balls can vary drastically in size, material, design, price, and brand-to name just a few factors that can influence your purchase. Knowing the basics of these attributes and what you need in each department will go a long way in making sure you select the right football. Below, we've outlined some of the specific variances you will see in each attribute from ball to ball, as well as what you will want or need for your soccer ball.

    1. Size

Let's start out by talking about the size of a soccer ball. While there are standard ball sizes for competitive events, the size of a soccer ball also varies for different age groups. In the majority of cases, you are going to be looking for a size 5. Size 5 is the soccer ball standard for the professional leagues and is what you would find in the vast majority of competitive events for players over the age of 12. Pre-teen clubs and leagues typically use a size 4 football, while younger players can use balls from size 3 class. These smaller footballs-sometimes labeled as "mini balls"-can be great for teaching young players the basic skills of the sport.

If you aren't sure which size of soccer ball to buy, ask the coach or league director. Training with the same size soccer ball you will be using in matches is paramount to proper preparation. A size 5 ball feels different at your feet than a size 4 ball, so knowing which one to train with will ensure that you aren't getting any unpleasant surprises on match day.

    1. Material

It used to be that leather footballs were the standard, but that is no longer the case. Today, most soccer balls feature covers or casings made of polyurethane-or PU as it is often called in football circles. PU coverings are soft and lively on the field, offering a touch and feel that players love. These footballs bounce well and afford players a lot of power and control. As the most responsive type of soccer ball on the market, PU-coated balls tend to be the most popular for competitive use.

The other standard type of soccer ball is a PVC-coated ball. Balls coated in PVC (or poly vinyl carbonate) have a more plastic-y feel than PU-coated balls. Where PU footballs are soft and responsive, PVC balls are hard, tough, and more difficult to control. High-level strikers, in particular, tend to hate PVC-coated soccer balls because they don't fly in a predictable or straight arc after a hard kick. For young players just learning the game, though (and not kicking with so much power), PVC balls can be ideal. They are considerably less expensive than PU balls and more durable, as well, which makes them a common choice for youth football practices. For higher levels of competition, though, a PU soccer ball is a must.

The outside coating of the football is not the only factor of the ball's material construction that you should consider. On the contrary, the interior lining-or the bladder-is also important to the performance and feel of the ball. Reading the specs for different types of soccer balls, you will typically see two different types of materials used for the bladder. The first is latex, which complements polyurethane with a similarly soft and responsive feel. Butyl-lined balls have a harder, more unyielding feel. Not too surprisingly, the pros and cons of latex and butyl bladders mirror the pros and cons of PU and PVC coating. Latex-lined balls, because they feel better on the feet and are easier to control, are preferred at higher levels, but lose air more quickly than their butyl counterparts.

    1. Design

For kids especially, the aesthetic look of the football might be an important selling point. Companies like Nike and Adidas make footballs that are genuinely beautiful, mixing different colors and designs for a striking aesthetic touch. Some of the best-looking soccer balls on the market are often the collectible ones, designed in accordance with sponsorship agreements (Nike's Cristiano Ronaldo ball for the 2015/16 campaign) or for specific events (the Adidas line of Champions League footballs). If you are willing to pay a little more, these types of branded balls can be a lot of fun to have in your bag.

The other factor to look at with design is the number of panels on the soccer ball. How many panels-usually pentagons or hexagons-make up the surface coating of the ball? 32-panel designs are typically the most common. If you were to get close enough to a World Cup match to examine the ball, you would see them using 32-panel designs. Most competitions follow suit on the 32-panel preference, but 18-panel and 26-panel designs are also becoming more common, and other configurations aren't unheard of, either. For beginning or amateur players, the number of panels doesn't really make a huge difference beyond aesthetic preference. Some professionals would argue that different panel configurations can affect how the ball feels on your feet or how it flies through the air, though, so you'll have to be the judge of which you like best by trying a few different styles.

    1. FIFA Approval

If you want to make sure the soccer ball you are using matches international professional sporting standards, look for one with a FIFA stamp. There are two FIFA stamps that appear on consumer footballs: "FIFA Inspected" and "FIFA Approved." FIFA Inspected balls have to go through a six-step test that checks size (specifically circumference), roundness, rebound (or bounce), weight, water absorption, and loss of pressure. FIFA Approved balls have to pass all six of those stringent tests, as well as a seventh test that checks their ability to retain their shape and size after intensive use. Buying a football with one of these stamps, in other words, guarantees that you are buying an objectively well-built product.

    1. Manufacturer

As with every other type of soccer gear-from jerseys to boots and beyond-quality footballs can come Choosing the Right Soccer Ball Nike Adidasfrom a number of different manufacturers. Whether you are looking for a general use training ball or a soccer ball branded to match the colors and logos of your favorite football club, brands like Le Coq Sportif, Umbro, and Puma are a few of the manufacturers you might consider researching. As with Premier League and La Liga jerseys, though, the soccer ball industry is ruled largely by two different manufacturers: Nike and Adidas. These two brands make visually stunning and meticulously constructed soccer balls of all sizes, for every level of training or competition. At Soccer Box, the majority of our footballs come from Nike or Adidas.

    1. Price

While specific sponsorship branding ties or elegant visual designs might affect the price of a football, most prices are going to fluctuate based primarily on quality. You will pay more for balls built with better materials, or boasting a FIFA endorsement stamp. You will pay less for balls constructed from cheaper materials or balls that haven't gone through quite as many quality control steps.

As you can see, there is quite a lot to consider when it comes to choosing the right soccer ball! By considering all of the above elements, however, you should be able to find a football that is the right size, has the right feel, comes from a trusted brand, and fits right into your price range.