Do Soccer Balls Have a Bladder?

Soccer balls are such an important component of the world’s most popular sport.

Inevitably, lots of people who watch the game or participate in it tend to have a number of questions about these famous objects.

From how soccer balls function to the sorts of materials that they are comprised of, the list of queries that cover anything and everything to do with soccer balls is virtually endless!

But despite that, here at Soccer Whizz we continuously endeavour to answer as many of these soccer-related questions as possible.

Which is why the topic of whether soccer balls have a bladder will be the main point of discussion today.

So, let’s get started.

A soccer ball typically contains a single latex, butyl or synthetic rubber bladder that rests inside the outer casing. The bladder is the compartment within the soccer ball that is responsible for storing the air pressure that gets pumped in through the valve opening.

Just like how humans have bladders in their bodies that are lined by layers of muscle tissue; serving the specific function of holding urine, soccer balls have bladders that are built to retain as much air as possible.

Let me explain this further.


What is the purpose of the bladder in a soccer ball?

In order for a soccer ball to acquire and maintain its spherical shape, it has to be filled with air that isn’t allowed to escape in the process.

By using a pump, a person can easily inflate a soccer ball to its recommended pressure level.

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Which of the following soccer ball specifications is of the highest quality? Tick one box.
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When inflating a soccer ball, what lubricant can you use to ease the entry of the pump needle in the valve?
Which of the following surfaces is most suitable for play with a soccer ball?
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What is the best way to know if a soccer ball is properly inflated?
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Now, it’s all well and good inserting air into a soccer ball.

But if there is no internal component within the ball capable of retaining the air that is delivered, then it will simply deflate into an empty state and become unsuitable for training and match play.

This is where an interior bladder comes in handy.

As air is pumped into the soccer ball through the valve opening, the bladder gradually begins to expand with its outer surface pushing onto the inner lining of the ball – thereby giving it a round shape.

The bladder also plays a massive role when it comes to certain aspects of soccer ball performance, such as:

  • Bounce uniformity
  • Responsiveness when under player control
  • Flight aerodynamism when struck

You will therefore want to take as much time as you can before making a final choice on a soccer ball that you want to buy.

More specifically, make sure that you have a good read through each product’s specifications for as long as you need to.

Because, the type of bladder that’s contained within the soccer ball you pick could be the difference between you having a pleasant playing experience and an incredibly frustrating one.


What is the bladder of a soccer ball made of?

Soccer ball bladders come in three different forms, with each material offering its own distinct set of advantages and drawbacks that can affect your buying choice.

Let’s look at each type of bladder in turn.


1. Latex

First things first, latex is a rubber material.

Before it’s extracted and processed for many final applications such as gloves, shoes and car tyres, it is found in the thick of natural forestation.

You see, latex is a soft white substance that’s usually found beneath the bark of mature rubber trees.

When the barks of these trees are peeled backwards, the plant ducts within them are disrupted and as a result of that a milky white substance called latex is left behind.

This process of natural rubber manufacturing – called “tapping” – happens when the tree bark gets split and cut into.

Have a look at the image below for a better illustration of this:

soccer ball bladders - latex extraction

Latex gets processed for use as a bladder primarily because it gives soccer balls a soft feel when they are kicked and a great level of responsiveness in terms of how they bounce and deflect when in motion.

Unfortunately, latex bladders don’t offer the best air retention because the natural material contains rubber pores that allow air to escape slowly.

This is why you will see people regularly re-inflating their latex bladder soccer balls, from as little as once a week to as much as a couple of times every few days in worst case scenarios!

On the plus side, developments to latex have been made which diminish the impact of the air retention issue.

Carbon latex bladders have been created with carbon powder that seals up many of the open micro-pores in the latex; meaning air retention is slightly improved.


2. Butyl

soccer ball bladders - butyl

Butyl is also another form of rubber.

It’s synthesized through combining two substances called isobutylene and isoprene.

Now, I won’t bore you with more of the scientific detail about this material as that will easily put you to sleep!

So, I’ll talk about why butyl is used as a bladder for soccer balls.

Firstly, butyl bladders have significantly improved air retention capabilities over their latex counterparts.

And because of their heavier and harder feel, soccer balls that contain them can last for a longer period of time, as they are better equipped built to withstand the forces and stresses associated with competitive match play and training.

On the flip side, you will come across many players who will tell you that the feel of a soccer ball made with a butyl bladder is a few notches below the standard of a latex-filled one.

Another key point to note is how butyl bladders are manufactured.

It’s a balancing act that involves combining butyl and rubber together, which in itself is highly important because:

“Generally speaking, the higher the butyl content, the longer the ball stays up. The downside is that adding more butyl also degrades the bounce of the ball and adds cost.”

Source – Summit Sport

What this means is that soccer ball developers usually have to juggle the combination of these two components, as the amount of butyl contained within a bladder can affect its overall performance when it comes to aspects of durability and player comfort.


3. Synthetic rubber

Finally, we have synthetic rubber bladders that attempt to take away the best properties of latex and butyl and mesh those advantages into one unit.

Are you confused by this statement?

If so, let me explain.

Butyl bladders perform excellently when it comes to air retention, whereas latex bladders give soccer balls a soft feel that makes tasks like kicking and ball control all the more enjoyable.

Now, a synthetic rubber bladder is supposed to offer the air retention of a butyl bladder without losing the feel of a latex one.

Bladders comprised of this material do a fine job in both of the aforementioned areas, but they don’t necessarily perform better than pure latex or pure butyl on their own.


Where is the bladder on a soccer ball located?

All this talk about bladder types is good, but the article won’t be complete without answering the question of where the bladder in a soccer actually sits.

Take a look at this video:

At the 30 second mark after the seams of the soccer ball have been cut open, you can notice the person begin to pull out a black material from inside the outer covering of the ball.

So, the bladder clearly rests underneath the outer leather surface of a soccer ball.

The bladder is also considered as the heart of the ball, because a person has to bypass the outer cover, the stitching and the inner lining just to find it.


Which bladder is best for a soccer ball?

Here is the million-dollar question!

Unfortunately, there is no clear winner because the type of bladder a person will want their soccer ball to have is almost entirely dependent on the playing experience that they’re after.

For example, if a person wants to feel every smooth inch of the soccer ball as they curve it, they would be better off going for a ball with a latex bladder.

Conversely, if a player’s priority is having a soccer ball that will last for a long time without the need to keep re-inflating it, then they should stick to butyl.

Ultimately, it’s a difficult choice to decide.

Fortunately, you can use the table below which neatly summarises the benefits and drawbacks of each bladder material so that you can make a more informed purchase decision.

Bladder TypeLevel of PlayAffordabilityDurabilityFeelAir Retention
LatexCompetitive matches at professional levelExpensiveModerateSuper smooth to connect withFairly poor
ButylTraining sessions and lower leveReasonably pricedExcellent; holds up well over timeHard to kickBrilliant; no need for frequent re-inflation
Synthetic RubberPractice and recreationalVery cheapModerateTerrible for performanceSolid enough


Closing thoughts

Soccer balls contain either latex, butyl or synthetic rubber bladders that serve the purpose of holding all the air that gets pumped into them.

Samuel Waihenya
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