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One of the key parts of a soccer match is the ball. While other components can be improvised — Who among us didn’t play a pickup game using bags, shoes, or other bits of debris as goalposts? — you need something round to kick. At the risk of getting unnecessarily lyrical and evoking a cliche, every player comes to know the ball rather well across their time on the pitch.

If you’re watching a soccer match on TV, though, you may notice a change. The ball, which is normally white, sometimes looks a bit different. Depending on the league and competition, it could be a yellow or, in rare situations, orange. What gives?

No, it’s not a new marketing promotion or an emergency replacement because someone forgot the match ball. Instead, it’s a standard swap for the winter months.

Yellow soccer balls theoretically provide better visibility in the winter months

A yellow winter soccer ball
The Serie A winter ball ahead of a 2023 match. | Nicolò Campo/LightRocket via Getty Images

When you imagine a stereotypical soccer ball, you probably picture something with alternating blocks of black and white. And while most leagues are already using balls with more striking patterns, things get even further afield during the winter.

During the winter months — there’s room for interpretation, but the rule of thumb generally blocks out November through March — many leagues will use what’s known as a winter ball. Those are a different color, usually yellow, designed for increased visibility.

While that might strike North American fans as an unnecessary choice — European games largely kick off in the morning by our standards — keep the local times in perspective. When you have matches kicking off at or after sunset, having a bit of extra visibility can’t hurt, even in clear weather. If there’s a (rare) bit of snow or some fog, the boost becomes even more imperative.

On some occasions, you might even see an orange soccer ball


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Thanks to the Premier League’s popularity, a yellow winter ball is probably the default image for most fans. And while Italy’s Serie A and Spain’s La Liga follow suit, there is room for variation.

The German Bundesliga and French Ligue 1 both use orange balls during the winter season. The Premier League also (theoretically) has an orange ball, which is used in snowy conditions for even more visibility, but that’s rarely seen.

No matter the color, though, the soccer itself remains the same. The Beautiful Game, it seems, is still pretty special, no matter the time of year.

Why is a soccer ball yellow during the winter?

While the stereotypical soccer ball is white, yellow (or orange) balls are used during the winter months. That alternate color scheme provides better visibility in dark and potentially snowy conditions.