Tech Advances by the Cupful
A wave of technological innovations is reshaping the World Cup experience for players, coaches and fans.
As soccer fans know, a goal counts only when the ball—the WHOLE ball—crosses the goal line within the goal frame. The most talked-about innovation at this year's Cup, the goal-line technology developed by the German company GoalControl, incorporates 14 cameras to capture the ball's position in 3D. When the ball crosses the line, a vibration and optical signal are instantly delivered to a watch worn by the referee. In this photo, officials test the goal-line technology prior to a match in Manchester, England, on March 25. (Photo by Alex Livesey/Getty Images)
Player GPS Trackers
Many players at the World Cup are wearing palm-sized GPS devices fitted inside compression tops under their jerseys. The technology, manufactured by GPSports and Catapult Sports, gives coaches real-time data about distances covered, heart rate, and how well players are performing relative to their average performance levels. Coaches are using the information to shape substitution strategies and prevent severe fatigue and injuries. In this photo, Tim Cahill of Australia has his GPS device adjusted by teammate Brett Holman during a training session. (Photo by Robert Cianflone/Getty Images)
Nike and Adidas are leading the attack in applying scientifically advanced designs to create ultralight shoes custom-tailored to specific positions and playing styles.
Adidas, Puma and Nike all have developed new jerseys made of ultralight polyester that breathes and wicks moisture away from the skin to keep players cool, at least relatively so in Brazil's tropical humidity. Also—get this—the Italian team is wearing a shirt that massages players while they're playing. Containing a special tape that provides "micro-massages," the shirt reportedly enables players to recover more quickly from exertion. In this photo, Italian star Mario Balotelli works out during a training session June 18 in Rio de Janeiro. (Photo by Claudio Villa/Getty Images)
Players were frustrated by the swervy unpredictability of the balls used in the 2010 World Cup in South Africa. So Adidas spent two years designing a new ball for this year's Cup—the Brazuca, which it manufactures in Pakistan. Players seem satisfied with the ball, which has deeper cuts in the seams to create more drag, giving it a more predictable flight and increasing the accuracy of shots. In this photo, Brazilian star Neymar gives the Brazuca a test whack during a training session June 11 at Arena de Sao Paulo. (Photo by Buda Mendes/Getty Images)
More About the Brazuca
The Brazuca soccer ball developed by Adidas for the 2014 World Cup is made of six interlocking polyurethane panels and has thousands of tiny dimples on its surface designed to increase grip and speed. Players criticized the balls used in the 2010 Word Cup in South Africa because they were too light and had erratic flight paths. According to Adidas, the Brazuca has been tested for more than two years and has received approval from 600 of the world’s top players. (Photo by Christopher Lee/Getty Images)
4K Ultra HD Broadcasting
Unfortunately, the striking 4K Ultra HD technology is available only on Ultra HD-equipped TV sets, which haven't sold well because of their high cost and the dearth of available 4K content. So Sony is collaborating with FIFA, the international federation that organizes the World Cup, to broadcast three matches in 4K Ultra HD, including the finale on Sunday, July 13—and that championship broadcast will be shown at select cinemas and public venues.
Do Not Cross
A vanishing shaving-cream-like spray is making its World Cup debut. Refs whip out the spray to mark where players should stand during a free kick. The sprayed line disappears after about a minute. The product is made by an Argentinian company called 9.15 Fair Play Limit—a reference to the 9.15-meter (10-yard) distance required between the player taking a free kick and the wall of opponents trying to block it. In this photo, a referee sprays a line as players from Brazil and Croatia form a wall during a World Cup match June 12 at Arena de Sao Paulo. (Photo by Elsa/Getty Images)
U-S-A ... U-S-A ...
No special technology here, just a huge, heart-pounding thrill for U.S. fans: John Brooks, second from left, heads the ball downward to score the decisive goal for Team USA with four minutes left against Ghana on June 16 in Natal, Brazil. (Photo by Laurence Griffiths/Getty Images)