One would think that all soccer balls would be built the same, right? But that is simply not the case.
Just in case you needed another reason to believe that science is involved in almost everything in our world, the World Cup soccer ball wants to add its name to the list. The official ball is the Conext 19, which mirrored the panel design of last year’s Telstar 18, the ball used in the 2018 Men’s World Cup.
The ball is redesigned every four years and tends to bring with it lots of criticism by the players. Since soccer players are experts at their craft, they will take notice of even the smallest of changes. When they practice with the ball, they look to see how it bounces, rolls, and flies, as well as how quickly it flies off the foot.
A lot of effort was put into perfecting this year’s soccer ball for the Women’s World Cup. They found that this year’s ball has the perfect aerodynamic properties for a soccer game. But when you combine the aerodynamics of a soccer ball with the combination of forces and variables that the soccer ball goes through, everything has to line up right to bend a soccer ball in the air the way you would like to.
Seams in the ball help to make its trajectory predictable. Imagine what the ball would do in the air if it was smooth. Almost like a knuckleball in baseball, it would dance all over the place. The seam length on this year’s ball is 30% longer than the last improved attempt design.
Many other factors contribute to the movement of a soccer ball, but emphasis on the seams and aerodynamics can produce fascinating results.