In 2010, players had a big complaint about the World Cup: The ball didn't move right. The Adidas Jabulani was engineered as a theoretical improvement over your standard, 32-panel ball. With just eight panels, it had fewer stitches, and that, supposedly, meant a less-turbulent flight through the air, Brian Palmer explains in the Washington Post. But in reality, stitches actually create fairly even turbulence all over the ball, and it flies they way players expect.
This year's ball, the Adidas Brazuca, has even fewer panels—just six. But it's also rough all over with bumps made from polyurethane. Like dimples on a golf ball, they should help the ball move predictably. At least two top players, Argentina's Lionel Messi and Spain's Iker Casillas, have applauded the new ball; on the other hand, they're both paid by Adidas, Palmer notes. Fortunately, researchers in Japan have also seen good results in tests of the ball, which is made up of x-shaped panels, the Los Angeles Times reports. And according to their study, the authors have "no competing financial interests."