High-Tech Soccer Gear Makes the Best Players Even Better

This month, more than 700 million people will watch the finals of the FIFA World Cup, the planet's most pop­ular sports event. Soccer is mainly about stamina and coordination, but players rely on cutting-edge gear to help score (or save) more goals.

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Jersey

Many players wear a loose jersey over a compression-type undershirt that keeps muscles warm and supported. TechFit jer­seys, like this one for host team South Africa, build the com­pression right in. A tight-fitting polyester mesh has elastic bands around the ribcage and between the shoulder blades. Adidas TechFit Jersey $150; adidas.com

Goalie Gloves

With balls flying toward the net at up to 90 mph, a goalie's hands would be toast without gloves. This pair lets keepers insert plastic spines behind each finger and thumb to keep them from bending backward. To help hold onto shots, the palm's foam compresses on impact instead of bouncing back. Reusch Magno Deluxe M1 Ortho-Tec Glove $150; reuschusa.com

Ball

Center stage in every game will be the 2010 World Cup's official ball. It's made of eight curved polyurethane-and-foam panels, versus the usual 32 or the last Cup's 14, and they're heat-bonded rather than stitched. That makes for the roundest, and thus the most accurate, soccer ball yet. A grippy texture also helps improve control. Adidas Jabulani $150; adidas.com

Shinguards

Kicks, tackles: These 4.8-ounce guards, tucked into socks, make it all nearly painless. A quarter-inch-thick layer of foam molds to the shin's shape, and a firm but flexible polyurethane top—which triples the impact protection of foam alone—is cut asymmetrically to fit the leg's curve. Uhlsport D.I.C. Vyper $40; uhlsportusa.com

Cleats

This boot instantly extends its traction on soft ground. Forceful pressure on the forefoot, as when starting a sprint, briefly pushes plastic studs up to 0.12 inch beyond their usual 0.28-inch length. (Hard ground keeps them at their shorter, faster size.) The shoe is an airy 6.5 ounces, with a carbon-composite sole and liquid-crystal-polymer-thread ribbing. Nike Mercurial Vapor Superfly II $400; nike.com