A new ball is changing the game of soccer

A ball equipped with sensors is making life easier for refs and could help grow the game.

soccer-ball

Referees have a thankless job. If they do it well, they get heckled, and if they do it poorly — they may have to go into hiding.

But soccer balls equipped with new technology are making the gig a little easier at this year’s World Cup, and changing the game in the process, per FiveThirtyEight.

What kinda tech?

Every ball is fitted with a device made by Kinexon, an IoT company for sports. The device sits in the center of the ball, held in place by a suspension system built by Adidas, and includes two sensors:

  • Ultra-wideband sensor: tracks location data better than GPS or Bluetooth, and relays data in real-time to accurately track a ball’s position
  • Inertial measurement unit sensor: tracks how an object moves in space

These sensors work with a dozen cameras positioned around the stadium that track the ball and players, leading to faster and more accurate offside calls.

But it’s not just refs who are celebrating

After the last World Cup in 2018, FIFA officials found the speed of offside decisions to be the biggest area for improvement.

  • Before gaining full FIFA certification, the new balls underwent six years of lab and player testing to ensure they wouldn’t move or feel different from a regular one.

And this is only the beginning. In the future, the combination of sensors and cameras could provide deeper analysis for teams and players, power new visualizations for broadcasters, and even create new statistics…

… All of which could help grow the game in the US, which is kinda already happening. Last Friday’s USA-England match pulled in 15.3m+ viewers, ~3m more than Game 6 of last year’s NBA finals.

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