Why Are Soccer Balls Made of Hexagons?

close-up of a woman holding a football

Soccer balls have come a long way since the days of inflated pigs bladders wrapped in leather. Balls were originally sewn up with laces and were much heavier than the balls of today. Charles Goodyear paved the way for the modern football when he started making soccer balls with his patented vulcanized rubber. Using leather as their material, manufacturers eventually discovered that using patches of leather shaped in hexagons and pentagons created the most spherical shape.

The Buckyball

The buckyball, or "buckminster" ball, is the name given to the most common type of soccer ball today. It's official shape name is a spherical polyhedron but it is affectionately known as the buckyball after Richard Buckminster Fuller, an architect who was trying to find a way to construct buildings with minimum materials, according to Soccer Ball World Website.

Thirty-Two Panels

The modern soccer ball has 32 panels of leather or synthetic plastic tightly stitched together. Twenty of these panels are hexagons and 12 of them are pentagons. The hexagons and pentagons are equally important as they fit together like a puzzle to form a perfectly spherical shape. The stereotypical soccer ball has white hexagons with black pentagons.

The Telstar

The Telstar ball, the first buckyball soccer ball, was the creation of Adidas for the 1970 World Cup Finals in Mexico. The now traditional black and white pattern was developed in order to make the ball more visible on televisions which were mostly inblack and white at the time. Adidas stayed loyal to the Telstar coloring pattern up until the 2002 World Cup Finals in Korea/Japan where they unveiled the Fevernova ball, the last buckyball to be used in a World Cup Finals to date.

Modern Day

The buckyball design of 32 panels of leather or synthetic is still the chosen tool for most professional soccer leagues around the world. However, for the 2006 and 2010 World Cup Finals, Adidas created a new generation of balls called the Teamgeist and Jabulani. These balls had only 14 and eight panels respectively, according to the Jabulani Ball website. Although some companies think this is a technological advancement, both these balls received fierce criticism from players and coaching staff for their unpredictability in the air.