The design of the 2018 World Cup soccer ball could make a huge difference in the game when the tournament begins in June, according to new research by Lynchburg College physics professor Dr. John Eric Goff.
Based on his analysis of the ball’s aerodynamics, the Telstar 18 will soar about 8 or 9 percent less distance than the Brazuca ball, which was used in the 2014 World Cup. “There will be a slight reduction in the long range kicks, and that’s probably going to be noticed by the goalkeepers, who are really trying to hit the ball down the pitch at a great distance,” Dr. Goff explained in a recent Star Talk Playing With Science episode.
As he did in 2014, Dr. Goff collaborated with scientists at the University of Tsukuba in Japan, who gathered data on the Telstar 18 in a wind tunnel. They also measured the seams that join the panels of each ball, giving insight into the physical properties of the ball. Although the Brazuca and the Telstar 18 each have six thermally-bonded panels, a new design of the panels makes Telstar’s seams a full meter longer than the Brazuca’s, according to the researchers’ measurements. The Telstar’s seams are shallower and narrower, though, to compensate. Still, the Telstar experiences more drag at high speeds, reducing its range on a hard kick.
Dr. Goff’s interview on Playing with Science begins at the 20-minute mark; listen online here. The research also appeared in the Journal of Sports Physics and Technology on May 19.