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For those who never saw a soccer practice, they look nothing like a soccer game. What is called “formal soccer training,” which is an established game between two teams, happens two or three times per week.
For that reason, the balls used in training are not the same used during official matches. But what is the difference between training and a match soccer ball?
Training soccer balls are more resistant, durable, and can retain the air for more extended periods. Match soccer balls are made with softer materials; the bladder and the outer cover are more responsive and sensitive to the player’s touch.
Training soccer balls are more rigid and rough; match soccer balls are soft and more comfortable to kick and head.
Training soccer balls can be used to play friendly or recreational games. They are the best option for occasional users since they last longer than match balls.
But if the ball’s destiny is to be used in competitive games, the best choice is to invest in an official soccer match. The responsiveness, bouncing, and air performance is superior.
Training Soccer Ball
Soccer balls built for training are usually made out of PVC (polyvinyl carbonite), PU (polyurethane), and equipped with a butyl bladder. PVC and PU are resistant materials, ideal for prolonged use.
The butyl bladder’s main characteristic is to retain the air longer than the rest of the bladders, latex or synthetic rubber bladder.
Match Soccer Ball
Official matches soccer balls have either synthetic leather or a mixture of PU and PVC outer cover. They usually have a latex bladder.
Synthetic leather is softer than any other material used to build a soccer ball, and it is used because of its superior reaction to the players’ touch.
The latex bladder also has an exceptional sensibility to touch and retains the air for no longer than 6 hours.
Difference between training and match soccer ball
The main difference between training and match soccer balls is the materials used to build them.
Training balls are more resistant and retain the air longer in their bladders; match soccer balls are softer, more responsive to touch, and can afford a softer bladder since they don’t need to retain the air for long periods.
If we see training sessions as a preparation for the game, they should be rehearsals of what will happen on the matchday. Therefore, every element used in training should be the same used later in the game.
But in soccer, things are a little different, and its logic makes total sense. Training sessions differ in many ways from an official match even though the game is the same.
The ball is hit hundreds of times more than in an official match and more extended periods in a training session. They are more about the repetition of movements and kicks rather than precision in the results.
That is why training and match balls are different in soccer
A match ball must have a superior sensibility to touch, be resistant but not hard, and the time their bladder can retain the air needs to be superior to 90 minutes.
150 if we count the interval and extra time. 200 minutes tops if we think about a possible penalty shootout.
That is a little bit more than three hours. Any latex bladder is capable of that and perhaps one or two hours more.
That is the reason why the match ball’s outer cover is made of synthetic leather. Synthetic leather has the highest level of responsiveness to touch, superior to PU and PVC. An official soccer match is about precision, where a few inches make a huge difference.
Training soccer balls need to be hard and durable. Training sessions in professional clubs are long and intense. The players practice under the sun, the rain, or even snow for long hours.
As the balls are used continuously during long hours daily, they need to be ready to use all the time. Coaches and trainers can’t inflate twenty or thirty soccer balls every morning before the training session starts.
That is why training soccer balls have a butyl bladder because it can retain the air for several days without losing its shape or size.
Most training balls have a PU or PVC outer cover, much more resistant than synthetic leather. PU and PVC balls have lower responsiveness to touch, but they last two or three times longer than the rest.
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Best training soccer ball
As training sessions tend to be harsh and demanding for soccer balls, they are usually built with rough materials. Many suggest that they are low to medium quality materials. Training soccer balls are meant to last, not to shine.
Most of them are machine stitched, ready to absorb thousands of touches and kicks per day. Besides the explained above, the idea of a hard training soccer ball also obeys the club finances. They need to replace them less often.
The best training soccer ball available right now is the Adidas MLS Top Glider. Its main characteristics are:
- A thermoplastic polyurethane outer cover. This material is even more resistant than PU or PVC.
- The ball comes with an internal layer made out of nylon to soften the ball a bit. It is still more rigid than a match ball but softer than any regular training ball.
- It has a super resistant butyl bladder, capable of retaining the air for several days.
- Apart from the professional number 5 size, the Adidas Top Glider comes in size 4 and 3.
Adidas is perhaps one of the most reliable brands in sports gear and equipment. The brand has the exclusive honor of providing the official ball for every World Cup since 1962. The brand is a warranty of quality.
The MLS Top Glider is a model created especially for training, but it is also a terrific model for practice and recreational use.
This model, produced in Pakistan, the world capital of soccer balls manufacturer, has more than five thousand testing kicks before making it to the market.
The ball is exceptionally comfortable to head and kick; the inner nylon-wound carcass does an extraordinary job at softening the ball. This ball is perhaps the softest among the hard and tough training soccer balls.
After kicking it and heading it to goal, the foot’s feel ensures that this ball is the best option for having effective and enjoyable training.
Thanks to the machine-stitched structure, the outer cover made of thermoplastic polyurethane, and the nylon-wound carcass, the ball has a perfect combination of high resistance to water; it is durable and soft to the touch.
If we have to point out just two distinctive attributes of this soccer ball, those will be durability and water resistance.
It is so resistant that it would last long months before it starts to demonstrate some damage. The constant use under the rain doesn’t seem to affect this ball either. After long hours of usage under heavy rain, the ball didn’t change its weight or consistency.
The butyl bladder is one of the best in the market right now. The ball can retain the air for at least 4 days without modifying its form or showing any significant change.
The testing process for these soccer balls is quite extensive. Adidas has a reputation to consider, and one of the leading marketing strategies is that the soccer ball we buy at the store in our city is exactly the same used in the official World Cup matches.
After the balls are manufactured, they are thrown by a machine against a solid metal plate at 45 miles per hour (75 km/h) about five thousand times.
This test tries to imitate the kick of a professional soccer player. They want to see how does the ball answers this exigence.
Adidas also tests their soccer balls to have the same performance under any weather. The balls are pressed into little containers of water to evaluate their porosity. Then they check how much water got inside of the ball.
The point of this test is to ensure the water allows the minimum possible of water inside them. When a soccer ball absorbs too much water, it changes its responsiveness, weight, bouncing, and weight.
The German manufacturer also submits their soccer balls to hot temperature tests. The balls are maintained under 100°F (almost 38°C) for a week in special ovens. Some countries play soccer with temperatures even higher than that.
Only two things to consider before getting this soccer ball:
- Remember, this is a practice or training soccer ball. You shouldn’t expect the performance of a professional soccer match ball. The ball is perfect for training matches and casual games, but it is not the best option for professional compromises.
- The use of this ball in concrete or the beach will diminish its durability drastically. This ball is meant to be used in artificial or natural grass or dirt. The use of this soccer ball on any other surface will damage its outer cover very fast.
The MLS Top Glider is a little bit heavier than the rest of the training soccer balls. Compared to a match ball, the Top Glider’s bouncing is inferior and less consistent. Still, it is at an excellent level for a training ball.
Some trainers consider the excess of weight in the Top Glider as an advantage since it makes the player train their kick strength while practicing, and then when they use a lighter match ball, they can shoot harder than their rivals.
Other trainers believe that the weight difference affects the player’s sensibility to the touch and the strength required for simple passes.
Best match soccer ball
Back then, in the beginnings of soccer, when they were made of pig bladders covered in leather, soccer balls were way different between them.
Sometime later, in the first World Cup final between Argentina and Uruguay, both teams wanted to use the ball they were more habituated to play with.
As they could not reach an agreement, the first time they used the ball Argentinians wanted, the second half used the preferred by the Uruguayans. The first half ended 2-1 for Argentina, the game ended 3-2 for Uruguay.
Nowadays, the difference between the different soccer balls is slightly perceivable, although some stand out above the rest. That is the case with the Adidas Telstar 18, the ball designed for the last World Cup in Russia.
The Telstar 18 model pays homage to the first Adidas ball used in a World Cup. The acronym Telstar is the combination of Television and Star. The black and white panels ensure the ball’s perfect vision in the black and white TVs of the time.
The Telstar 18 is a thermally bonded six-panel ball, covered in synthetic leather and equipped with a latex bladder.
Last Adidas’ baby stands out of the rest for several details:
- Its 3d texture helps goalkeepers have a better grip of the ball.
- The advanced TSBE technology used to manufacture the ball warrants a lower water intake than any soccer match ball.
- Its exclusive latex bladder with a butyl valve ensures longer air retaining.
- The ball has only 6 panels thermally bonded designed to balance and distribute the weight equally on the ball’s surface after it is kicked. This feature also ensures more consistency while in the air, even more than the Brazuca model used in Brazil’s 2014 World Cup.
- The ball has an excellent bounce.
- The ball is faster, more durable, and robust than the Brazuca model.
Inspired by the Adidas Telstar model, Telstar 18 introduced a revolutionary chip technology that makes the ball capable of interacting with smartphones and other devices.
The ball respects the traditional black and white model, adding a pixelated effect that makes the ball look modern.
The chip is located under a Wi-Fi lookalike symbol on the ball that says “FIFA Quality Pro.” The chip doesn’t allow the user to measure their shots’ power or compare the crossings’ curves among friends.
As a first experience, the chip only enables the user to access exclusive content on the Adidas website.
After intense criticism to the German manufacturer after the 2010 World Cup official ball’s fiasco, the Jabulani, Adidas redeem their name with the Brazuca, the ball for Brazil 2014.
The creation of the Telstar 18 overcome the success of the Brazuca, becoming the best creation of Adidas so far.
The Telstar 18 is the more reliable ball for long shots. They managed to minimize almost to zero the chances of erratic behavior from the ball in long shots. The Jabulani, for instance, was so unpredictable that it became a nightmare for goalkeepers and forwards.
The rebounding is better than the Jabulani ball and even better than Brazuca. In impeccable fields, the bouncing of the Adidas Telstar is as stable as predictable and reliable.
The Adidas Telstar not only has superior bouncing but a better and more consistent curve performance in long shots. This offers a better understanding of the ball mechanics for strikers and free-kick takers, and goalkeepers, who expect fewer last-second surprises.
For free-kick takers, it is easier to control and direct the ball towards their objective. The Telstar 18 also performs better for headers; the ball is not hard, and it responds correctly to hits with the head.
The Telstar 18 is also the fastest among the soccer balls.
When tested in long-distance shots, like a goalkeeper’s restart, the Adidas Telstar travels slightly less than the Brazuca. Still, its performance in this requisite is on the podium.
The black and white model might look too classic, but the 3D texture of the outer cover is on the next level. The ball offers a superior grip than any other ball with a 3D design in the market.
The panels’ shape is at least unique, but the design ensures superior performance of the ball in the air. The exclusive butyl valve is red, which makes it easier to find and looks good.
The six panels’ shape also obeys an exclusive Adidas design engineered to grant a perfect distribution of the ball’s weight when traveling after a kick.
The latex bladder with the butyl valve retains the air longer than any other latex bladder ball created so far. Latex bladders are softer than the PVC and butyl ones, making the ball more delicate and more responsive to the touch.
The latex bladder, combined with the synthetic leather outer cover, augments the softness of the ball. The Telstar 18 is robust and resistant but also soft and delicate.
As we mentioned above, the NFC chip is the product of introducing a new element. More symbol than a feature, the detail was added to establish the contrast between the original Adidas Telstar and the 18 models.
Still, everything indicates that the future of soccer balls and chips is linked.