Soccer balls and footballs are both balls used in popular team sports, but they have distinct differences that optimize them for their respective games. Here are 10 ways soccer balls and footballs differ:
- Shape – Footballs are prolate spheroids, soccer balls are spheres
- Size – Footballs are larger
- Weight – Footballs are heavier
- Materials – Soccer balls have synthetic covers, footballs are leather
- Laces – Footballs have prominent laces, soccer balls have minimal lacing
- Kicking style – Soccer balls are struck solidly, footballs are kicked more softly
- Bounce – Soccer balls bounce higher
- Grip – Footballs easier to grip and throw
- Head protection – Heading soccer requires no protection, football does
- Aerodynamics – Soccer balls have smoother flights, footballs more erratic
Now let’s dive deeper into each of these differences:
Difference in shape
The soccer ball is a true sphere, while the American football is an elongated prolate spheroid shape.
This ovaloid shape allows for throwing tight spirals and grip. The round soccer ball is ideal for smooth rolls and strikes with the foot.
I remember playing soccer with a football as a kid – it wobbled all over the place when we tried to dribble or pass! The shapes are really optimized for their sports.
Difference in size
Regulation soccer balls have a circumference of 27-28 inches. American footballs are longer at 11 inches and bigger around at 28 inches end to end.
Football’s larger size aids grip and throwing. Soccer’s smaller dimension allows better ball control with the feet.
My brother and I had fun comparing ball sizes across different sports growing up. It was easy to see why shapes and sizes varied by the game!
Difference in weight
Soccer balls weigh between 14 to 16 ounces. Footballs are heavier at 14 to 15 ounces.
The lighter soccer ball is easy to strike solidly. The heavier football allows tight spirals on passes.
I recall trying to throw a soccer ball as a kid – much harder to grip and heave than a football designed for throwing. The extra weight makes a difference.
- Soccer ball: Synthetic leather or PVC covers around foam or polyester lining
- Football: Pebble-grained leather cover surrounding rubber bladder
Soccer prioritizes lightness and water resistance. Football emphasizes grip and pliability for throwing.
Cutting balls open in science class showed how the inner materials provide the ball properties. Really interesting to see the differences!
History of both balls
Early soccer balls were organically shaped pig or cow bladders bundled in leather. The iconic soccer ball pattern emerged over time.
American football evolved from rugby into its familiar oblong shape by the late 1800s to allow throwing.
Soccer ball history
- Pig bladders bundled in leather used from 100s BC
- Charles Goodyear’s vulcanized rubber in 1855
- 32-panel leather ball in 1900s
- Synthetic balls by late 1900s
- Oval “prolate” shape by late 1800s
- Natural leather covers
- Rubber bladders inserted
- Synthetic versions by 1960s
It’s amazing how both evolved across centuries into the familiar forms used today. Technology improved materials while shapes optimized the gameplay.
Speed they travel
When struck or thrown, soccer balls reach higher speeds:
- Soccer ball kick: 70-80 mph
- Football throw: 60 mph on average
The lighter soccer ball travels faster when kicked. The heavier football limits velocity.
We tested ball speeds for a school experiment – the soccer ball flew off the foot much faster than throwing a football. Weight and shape affect speed.
How fast is a serve?
Soccer doesn’t involve serves, but football throw speeds vary:
- High school QBs: 30-40 mph
- College QBs: 50+ mph
- NFL QBs: 60+ mph throws
So football throw velocity correlates with player experience and power. Soccer prioritizes accuracy over speed.
My QB throwing speed plateaued around 45 mph in high school – not NFL material! Soccer passing depended on technique more than raw velocity.
What is the World Record Speed of both?
- Soccer ball: 129.9 mph kick by Ronny Heberson Fragata
- Football throw: 61 mph by Logan Thomas
Generating those speeds requires immense leg or arm strength. The lighter soccer ball reaches much higher velocities when kicked.
Seeing balls launched that fast in person is mind-blowing! Reaction time must be insanely quick at those velocities.
How both compare to balls from other sports
Basketballs need good grip and bounce. Baseballs must transfer energy from bat to ball efficiently. Golf balls require backspin and precision off the clubface.
The soccer ball and football are designed specifically for their primary kicking or throwing purposes. Shape and materials optimize each sport.
Understanding ball physics improved my sports skills and appreciation of equipment design. The right ball makes the game!
The best makes of balls for either sport
Soccer: Adidas, Nike, Select, Mitre, Puma
Football: Wilson, Nike, Rawlings, Baden, Spalding
For casual play almost any ball will work. But serious players want quality materials from the top brands.
I learned soccer with cheap vinyl balls that went flat quickly! But got more serious with quality synthetic match balls later on.
Best ways to store or maintain the balls
- Inflate properly and check pressure
- Clean dirt off surface
- Store at room temperature away from elements
- Keep at room temperature
- Occasionally condition leather
- Replace if bladder leaks or surface damages
With basic care, both retain quality for a long time. I still have childhood footballs and soccer balls that play fine!
How a new one compares to an older one.
When new, both balls feel and perform flawlessly:
- Pristine surface with no scuffs
- Lively bounce and response
- Perfectly inflated with no leaks
Older balls degrade:
- Fading, dirt and abrasions
- Loss of pressure and bounce
- Brittle or cracked materials
While old balls are fine for casual fun, new ones optimize gameplay and consistency.
I love opening a new can of balls – nothing beats that perfect gloss and feel underfoot! Old balls get retired to the backyard.
While similar in broad concept, soccer balls and footballs differ substantially in materials, mechanics and purpose. Appreciating these nuances provides insight into the engineering specialized for each sport. Next match, consider the science inside the ball that makes the beautiful game possible!