The air pressure of a soccer ball plays a huge role in quality of play. If the ball is too hard, it is difficult to control. If the soccer ball is too soft, players will struggle to send it down the field or pass it to teammates as it is difficult to kick in such a state.
Given how important proper inflation of a soccer ball is to the quality of play, it is important that players, coaches and even referees take the time to learn more about this topic.
Continue reading to learn everything you need to know about air pressure and soccer balls from why it is important to what the recommended PSI is for a soccer ball and how to tell if a ball is properly inflated.
Table of Contents
- Why the Air Pressure of a Soccer Ball Matters
- How Much Air Should A Soccer Ball Have?
- How Do I Know if a Soccer Ball is Properly Inflated?
Why the Air Pressure of a Soccer Ball Matters
Air pressure inside a soccer ball affects the distance it will travel when kicked. A soccer ball with higher air pressure is stiffer. When it is kicked, more energy is transferred to the ball which causes it to move further.
The opposite happens with lower air pressure. A soccer ball with lower air pressure has a soft, mushy feel to it. This makes it difficult to kick. No matter how strong of a kick you give a low air pressure soccer ball, it will only move a very short distance. That is if it moves at all and doesn’t just drop to the ground.
Given that higher air pressure soccer balls travel further, you would think you would want to make the air pressure as high as it will go. Unfortunately, that creates problems.
If a soccer ball has too much air pressure, it bounces easily when kicked. Players will experience difficulty controlling the ball as it will act unpredictable.
A soccer ball with too much air pressure can also cause injury as the ball is harder.
How Much Air Should A Soccer Ball Have?
How much air your soccer ball should have will depend upon its size. It will also depend upon what organization’s (FIFA or Premier League) rules you are following.
If you are not sure which size ball you should use, take a look at our guide.
Size 3 Soccer Ball Air Pressure
Measuring 23-24 inches in circumference and weighing about 10 pounds, the size 3 soccer ball is the smallest ball used during match play. It is commonly used for players under the age of 8.
The recommended psi for a size 3 soccer ball is between 8.5 and 15.6. However, for players that are just starting out, you may want to have the soccer ball’s air pressure be on the lower end.
Size 4 Soccer Ball Air Pressure
Measuring 25-26 inches in circumference, the size 4 soccer ball is slightly larger than size 3, but not as large as a size 5. It is commonly used for more of a junior-level player who is between the ages of 8 and 12.
The recommended psi for a size 4 soccer ball is between 8.5 and 15.6.
Size 5 Soccer Ball Air Pressure
Considered the “standard” for international play, the size 5 soccer ball is what is used for international match games. The size 5 soccer ball measures 27-28 inches in circumference. It is used by players 12 and up as well as by professionals.
The recommended psi for a size 5 soccer ball is between 8.5 and 15.6.
Regulation Soccer Ball Pressure: FIFA and Premier League
Since air pressure plays such a huge role in game play, it is addressed in the rules. Both FIFA, the organization that oversees international soccer play, and EPL or English Premier League, the organization that oversees game play in England, specifically address air pressure in its rules.
FIFA Soccer Ball Air Pressure
FIFA recommends that all match play soccer balls have a psi between 8.5 and 15.6. FIFA does recommend that professional players use soccer balls that have higher air pressure.
Premier League Soccer Ball Air Pressure
The English Premier League has a slightly different psi recommendation for soccer balls. The recommended psi for match games played in the EPL is between 8.7 and 16.0 psi. Similar to FIFA, EPL recommends professional players play with a soccer ball that has a higher air pressure.
How Do I Know if a Soccer Ball is Properly Inflated?
There are two methods commonly used for measuring air pressure in a soccer ball. One method, an air pressure gauge, is more precise and accurate while the other method, the bounce test, is informal and not as accurate. We will describe how to do both methods.
Method #1: Using an Air Pressure Gauge
An air pressure gauge is an easy-to-use instrument that allows you to quickly check the air pressure of a ball. This method is more accurate which is why it is used by referees before match play or whenever there is a question regarding whether a ball is properly inflated.
It is recommended that you use an air pressure gauge as it will give you an exact idea of what the psi is and allow you to determine if the ball needs more/less air.
To use an air pressure gauge:
- Insert the air pressure gauge’s needle into the valve of the soccer ball
- Make sure you are holding the needle straight as you could puncture the ball if the needle isn’t properly inserted.
- Read the meter. Most air pressure gauges use a small needle-based meter that will show you the psi. However, there are some digital air pressure gauges that will automatically show you the psi without requiring you to read the meter.
Fun Fact: Air pressure gauges can also be used to deflate a soccer ball. If you need to travel or store a soccer ball, you can use an air pressure gauge to fully deflate the ball.
Similarly, there are some air pressure gauges that also come with air pumps. This allows you to not only measure air pressure and deflate the ball, but you can add air to the ball if it is needed.
Method #2: The Bounce Test
The bounce test isn’t very accurate. However, if you are just practicing or playing a pickup game of soccer, the bounce test is accurate enough that you will be able to determine if the ball is within acceptable range.
To perform the bounce test do the following:
- Hold the ball and drop it from a certain distance (for example 80 inches)
- Watch how high the ball bounces
- Properly inflated soccer balls will bounce approximately ⅔ of the height they were dropped (between 45 and 65 inches in the above example of an 80-inch drop)
Bonus Method for Testing Air Pressure: The Squeeze Test
Similar to the bounce test, the squeeze test isn’t very accurate. In fact, the squeeze test and bounce test are probably similar in accuracy.
The squeeze test involves taking the soccer ball and squeezing it. The ball should have a slight give to it, but still be firm.
Again, the squeeze test isn’t very accurate, so it isn’t recommended for match play. However, it is often accurate enough for use in informal games, practice and youth leagues. In fact, it isn’t uncommon to see a referee at a youth soccer game use the squeeze test before a game to determine if the match ball is properly inflated.
Of course, since the squeeze test and bounce tests aren’t very accurate, they aren’t used for competitive leagues or professional play. For those types of matches, a pressure gauge is used so everyone knows exactly what the air pressure is in the match ball.
All players, coaches and referees should know not only what the recommended psi is for the ball they are using, but how to measure the psi. With the information we provided, we have answered your most commonly asked questions about air pressure and soccer balls and even provided you with instructions on how to measure the psi.