History and brief overview of soccer ball sizes
When we look at a Soccer ball, it is natural to assume it has only ever had one shape and size. Indeed, throughout Soccer’s history there really has been only one shape and size, unless you count the ‘oranges’ Pele used to ‘juggle’ or the ‘tin cans’ wrapped in a bunch of rags, Diego Maradona similarly used to play with! A soccer ball’s size was initially the exact shape and size of the pig’s bladder it was made from! Moreover, until Charles Goodyear patented vulcanized rubber in 1836 this remained the case. The first ‘rubber’ football made in 1855, followed by the first ‘inflatable rubber bladder’ in 1862. These being roughly equivalent to a modern day Size 4 or 5.
However, as history naturally advanced, the ‘beautiful game’ became more popular and more and more people – from children to women wanted to play the game, so the originally inspired Soccer ball changed and different sizes of Soccer ball emerged. In this article, I will take a look at the standard size(s) of football now in existence and the typical demographics that they are used by.
Soccer Ball Size 1
- Size: 18 – 20 inches (circumference)
- Age recommendation: 3 and under.
The smallest officially recognized Soccer ball size available to buy, this ball is ideal for male or females in their infancy. Either just for kids’ fun, as a great way to start to develop eye and foot coordination, or as a way to check whether you might have the next Lionel Messi or Mia Hamm as part of your family! This size of football is an ideal size for an early introduction into the game of Soccer.
Other notable uses of this size of ball are that the more experienced player can use it to perfect their ‘touch’, technique and overall ball control as a smaller sized ball is much more difficult to control. (Of course if you’re a budding Diego Maradona feel free to try using a tennis ball or even a golf ball!)
Final fact about a Soccer ball size one is it is often sold by Soccer club souvenir shops with their logo and team crest on them so they can also make a great birthday treat.
Soccer Ball Size 2
- Size: 20 – 22 inches (circumference)
- Age recommendation: 3 – 5 years old.
A small step up from the Size one ball, the Size 2 ball is also used for introducing would be young players into the game. It nevertheless can also be used as a practice ‘skills’ ball and indeed is better in this respect as it has a reasonable weight of between 250 to 280 grams. So it is no longer a toy. Though clubs and companies do use this size of ball both for souvenirs and or for promotional marketing.
Soccer Ball Size 3
- Size: 22 – 24 inches (circumference).
- Age recommendation: 5 – 8 years old.
- Weight: 300 – 320grams.
The Size 3 Soccer ball is the smallest ball used in ‘proper’ league matches. Indeed, it is the size of ball from which many children and youth teams (Under 6 onwards) start to play the game officially. Slightly bigger and heavier than a Size 2 ball, this size of ball is seen as a ‘bellwether ball’ for testing how well a young player may be able to transition to the larger Size 4 and Size 5 balls which are used at professional levels.
Moreover, it should be noted that though this ball is not the official size for a ‘futsal’ ball and match, it can be used in such and/or on professional training pitches.
Fun Trivia – ‘cocky’ young players at world renowned clubs have often been ‘brought down to earth’ when their Coach or Managers have had enough of their arrogance and ‘show-boating’, how? The ‘cocky’ player is simply thrown one of these balls (which virtually all clubs have lying around) and told to play with that for the rest of the day!
Soccer Ball Size 4
- Size: 25 – 26 inches (circumference).
- Age recommendation: 8 – 11 years old.
- Weight: 350 – 390 grams.
A Size 4 Soccer ball is designed to ready players for the regulation Size 5 Soccer ball which is used in professional matches. Younger players, who do not quite have the power they will have in their legs when they are older, will find it easier to control and move during practices and matches. Moreover, due to a lighter weight than the Size 5, this ball will give the older youths the option to really start and develop the techniques required for taking a proper ‘set piece’ such as a ‘corner’ or ‘free kick’. This Size 4 ball gives players a few years to adjust as they get older, stronger, and more skilled.
Note. This is also the officially recognized sized ball for any ‘futsal’ tournaments. Futsal now becoming much more popular in itself and also as a way to help players make the step up to a full ‘elevens’ side for it hones skills and encourages tight ball control.
Soccer Ball Size 5
- Size: 27 – 28 inches (circumference).
- Age recommendation: 12 years and older.
- Weight: 300 – 320grams.
Finally, we come to the size of Soccer ball which is used universally across the world largely from the age of 12 up. From professional leagues and tournaments such as the MLS, EPL, La Liga, La Ligue, and Serie ‘A’ to a whole host of International tournaments including the World Cup, this is the size of ball mandated for use.
Weighing in at between 410 – 450 grams, this ball is not recommended for younger age groups (though in England you are given a ball this size for your second or third birthday present – boy or girl!) since it is considerably heavier than the balls mentioned. The reason is primarily dual:
- It is far harder to control due to its weight and size.
- It can cause injuries, as such younger players’ muscles may not be developed enough for the weight and size of the ball.
When used in any ‘official’ matches, Size 5 balls should have the “FIFA Approved” or “FIFA Inspected” stamp. This means they have been tested and certified as to their official size and weight and are in accordance with the laws of the game.
The above article gives a rough idea of what type of ball should be used at what age and level of play. However, this is by no means ‘set in stone’ – an old soccer adage applies here; ‘if your good enough, you’re old enough’. Wayne Rooney (of DC United) made his English Premier League debut at age 16 and I bet he was kicking a Size 5 around quite a few years before it was recommended!