Each World Cup, the sportswear giant Adidas designs an official ball to be used in the tournament.
And small changes in the design can create significant differences in how the ball responds during play.
"It's an interesting phenomena that the world's most popular sporting event for the world's most popular sport and the most important piece of equipment in that sport is changed every World Cup," says John Eric Goff, a physics professor at Lynchburg College in Virginia.
The new ball is called the Telstar 18. It has six panels and a slick black-and-white design inspired by Russian cityscapes. It's meant to be a nod to a less technologically advanced predecessor, the Telstar ball used in the 1970 World Cup.
But how does this ball actually stack up? To find out, scientists stuck it in a wind tunnel with a bunch of sensors attached to a metal rod.
"It's actually recording the size of the forces on the ball," Goff says.
The technology used in making the balls has changed significantly since that 1970 World Cup ball. Earlier Adidas models featured 32 panels stitched together, Goff says, but more recent models have fewer panels that are thermally bonded.