As legions of pro soccer players from around the globe prep for World Cup 2014 in Brazil, Sunday leaguers can taste a little of the looming action with Adidas's official tournament ball, dubbed the Brazuca, a slangy portmanteau of Brazilian and bazooka.
Unlike, say, baseballs, different models of soccer balls perform completely differently: Some are slippery, others curve, and some bruise players feet. That's why the introduction of a new tournament ball is such a big deal for fans. Like its predecessor, the universally despised and notoriously unstable Jabulani, the Brazuca will affect the tournament's outcome.
This time around Adidas has clearly worked extra hard to overcome its predecessor's air- and ground-based performance shortcomings. The result is a ball that takes the best of Euro 2012's Tango 12 – thermally bonded sections, extra shoe-gripping material – and adds new features. The most notable innovation is that the Brazuca is constructed of just six identical interlocking panels. For golden-shoe contenders, that means more control on curved free kicks and increased passing speed. Adidas claims this is the most tested soccer ball it has ever made and, so far, it seems like a winner. [$160; adidas.com]