England Under-21s will face a "tough" start to their new campaign, according to boss Gareth Southgate.
The Three Lions will come up against USA’s U23 Olympic hopefuls in Preston next Thursday in what will be the first taste of life with Southgate's U21s squad for many of them.
And by facing an older side who are in the final throes of preparation for October’s crucial Olympic qualifiers, the head coach believes it will be an important opener for him and his staff.
England v USA
International Friendly Match
7.45pm, Thursday 3 September 2015
Deepdale, Preston North End
Live on BT Sport
Tickets: 0844 856 1966 or via email@example.com
"We’d rather have a high level of opposition so we can learn more about them," admitted Southgate, after naming his new-look squad earlier this week.
"Last year, we didn’t have any friendly dates, as we were in a [Euro Qualifying] group of six and the international breaks were filled with qualifying matches.
"This time, we’ve got some spare dates over the next few months.
"It’s not always easy to get good opposition, but we’ve played USA at a few different age groups now and they’ve been really challenging games, this one will be no different.
"The States will be a little bit older than us, as an U23 Olympic team, but that’s a good challenge for the players in their first match and is a chance to establish our way of playing before we go to Norway for an important qualifier the following week."
With eight players in Southgate’s 23-man squad having already featured for the U21s in the previous campaign, there will be an element of familiarity within the group when they report to St. George’s Park on Sunday.
After qualifying for the last Euro Finals in style before missing out on a place in the semi-finals in Czech Republic this summer, Southgate knows how he wants his side to play as they set out in the race for the next championship in Poland 2017.
And he is excited about getting to work with the new players at his disposal for the new campaign, which sees England up against Norway, Switzerland, Bosnia-Herzegovina and Kazakhstan.
"The basis of how we want to work and how we want to play will remain," he said.
"We have kept a number of players in this age group from the last campaign and there are some really exciting players coming through.
"Our principles of play are still established and the new U21 players who have featured in our younger age groups will have an idea about our style of play, so I feel that we’re further ahead than we were with the last group when we started two years ago.
Gareth Southgate is looking forward to working with the U21s again as they start the new Euro Qualifying campaign
"We really do have a good depth of talent coming through so we hope that over the next two years, the potential in this group can overcome our first challenge which is to reach the Euro Finals and then go from there."
Tickets for the game at Deepdale on Thursday 3 September are priced at just £10 for adults and £5 for children, with a family ticket (two adults and two children) costing £20 and group bookings of 15+ working out at £5 for adults and £1 for children.
Season ticket holders at Deepdale can also claim half price tickets and concessions for U18s, over 65s and students (on production of valid ID) are £5. Call 0844 856 1966 for details or e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org