"No one knows soccer like adidas."
Those were the first words I and about thirty other media members saw run across the screen during the video presentation at the official adidas World Cup kickoff event last Thursday, and it’s hard to argue with them; soccer is firmly encoded in the company’s DNA. Ever since founder Adi Dassler (along with his brother Rudolf, who later started Puma after a bitter rift between the siblings) made his first soccer boot in 1925, it’s been adidas’ vision to help players perform better with innovative engineering.
Dassler’s Argentina cleats ahead of the 1954 World Cup were the first that you could say truly changed the game. The new screw-in studs could be changed based on weather conditions, and Dassler had the German national team used them to great advantage. Down 2-0 at halftime, the Germans changed into longer studs to get better traction on the rain-soaked pitch, and rallied against heavily-favored Hungary – who did not wear adidas – in what is called the Miracle of Bern. Not coincidentally, many top players started exclusively wearing adidas boots thereafter.
Forty years later, the introduction of the Predator would redefine the business, and the sport, once more. Its unconventional rippled fins helped players increase power, swerve and control of the ball, while the new traxion stud technology provided better traction and grip, improving acceleration and lateral movement. Almost twenty years later, the Predator is still the top-selling boot of all time.
It looks almost prehistoric now, but the 1994 Predator was the most popular cleat of its time.
Fast-forward to the present. For the 2014 World Cup, four new cleats were announced at the World Cup launch, each tailored for certain player types. There are the ever-popular adizero F50 and Predator models, designed for the speed and finesse players, respectively; the latest 11Pro, which is all about comfort; and the brand new energy-retaining Nitrocharge cleat, designed for those players who run and tackle the most, already worn by workhorses such as Javi Martinez and Dani Alves.
The new line of cleats, named the Samba Collection, was built for and inspired by Brazil, says Ernesto Bruce, adidas North America’s director of soccer. The company’s design team went down to Rio de Janeiro for Carnival and came back with the colorful vision for its new cleats, which are already out for sale. You can read more about each cleat in my interview with Bruce.
Of course, another big component of the presentation was the new World Cup kits, including favorites Spain, Argentina, Germany and Mexico, which unsurprisingly is the best-selling kit in the Unites States. They are all mind-blowingly light; the full kit (shirt and shorts) weighs a combined 8.8 ounces. That’s 40 percent lighter than the kits players currently wear. They’re also a sight for sore eyes:
Giddy media members, myself included, were allowed to test out the new boots and kits in a friendly match that also featured Bruce and two honorary captains — former USA internationals Jimmy Conrad and Jeff Agoos.
I tested the new Nitrocharge cleats, and what stood out to me — other than the fact they come in the brightest neon hue possible — was the elastic EnergySling around the forefoot, designed to facilitate side cuts and precision turns. It’s a wonderful boot, and though I’m not sure how much I helped the cause, Team Germany would go on to beat Team Everyone Else, 5-3. The match ended on a truly spectacular own goal scored from a good twenty yards out by Agoos, who we figured simply wanted the game to be over with.
Here’s yours truly, lined up at left back next to former USA international Jeff Agoos.