With the Copa America already testing us with its awkward kick-off times, the Under-21 European Championship is here to help fill the void in our evenings. England are among the eight teams who will be travelling to the Czech Republic for the 20th edition of the competition, which starts on Tuesday 16 June. Here is all you need to know before it gets started.
Who is there
Gareth Southgate's side are joined in Group B by the competition's most successful side and 2013 runners-up Italy, along with Portugal and Sweden. Over in Group A, hosts Czech Republic will do battle with Denmark, Germany and Serbia.
How it works
The format for the competition remains fairly straightforward; each team plays each other once with the top two from each group qualifying for the semi-final stage. Goal difference will decide things if teams finish level on points – no head-to-head rule here.
The winners of Group A will face the runners up in Group B and vice versa. All pretty simple.
Players to watch
While Portugal, Serbia and Germany have also packed squads off to the Under-20 World Cup in New Zealand – all three reached the quarter-finals, by the way, with Serbia one match away from the final – there is plenty more talent on show in Czech Republic. As any seasoned Football Manager veteran will know, this competition is all about unearthing new talent. Our picks are:
Fischer's rise at Ajax brings to mind that of Christian Eriksen at the same club. Making his first team debut three years ago, in April the 20 year old scored twice in just his second game after returning from 14 months out with a hamstring injury. This was a bright spot in a dark season for Ajax after they lost the title to PSV. He will be eager to make up for lost time in this tournament.
Eyebrows were raised when Monaco made their loan deal for Bernardo Silva a permanent one, mainly because they paid a princely fee of €15m (£10.8m) to do so. But the 20 year old has wasted little time in justifying his price tag, hitting seven goals since the Ligue 1 side struck that deal with Benfica in January. He has continued to excel in the exciting young attacking trident alongside Anthony Martial and Yannick Ferreira-Carrasco.
Jose Mourinho has already promised the 19 year old a role in his first team squad next season. Perhaps the brightest talent in a mass of Chelsea youngsters with boundless potential, Loftus-Cheek was handed his Premier League debut against Liverpool and immediately looked as if he had been there for years. Crisp passing, excellent positioning and constant awareness make him look immediately at home.
Rugani's presence at the heart of Empoli's defence was integral to their 15<sup>th place finish in the 2014-15 season, appearing in all 38 of their Serie A fixtures. It was this form that convinced Juventus to buy out Empoli's half of the player's rights and, while Arsenal have been linked with a £13m bid for the 20 year old, a move away from the La Vecchia Signora seems unlikely.
Gareth Southgate's side will kick off their campaign as one of the favourites. A qualifying campaign of nine wins and a draw from 10, coupled with friendly victories over the competition's other two big guns in Germany and Portugal, sees them arrive in resplendent form.
Much will be expected of the potent trio of Harry Kane, Saido Berahino and Danny Ings, who bagged a combined 50 goals in all competitions in the 2014-15 season. However, there is genuine quality across the pitch. Senior internationals John Stones, Calum Chambers and Carl Jenkinson offer a formidable presence at the back while Will Hughes, Tom Carroll and James Ward-Prowse can provide control from the middle of the park. Jesse Lingard, Alex Pritchard and Nathan Redmond will provide the incision. The future looks bright.
Who else has impressed here?
England last reached the final of this competition in 2009, where a side that featured James Milner, Theo Walcott and Fabrice Muamba was trounced 4-0 by future World Cup winners Manuel Neuer, Jerome Boateng, Mats Hummels, Mesut Ozil and Sami Khedira of Germany. Typical of tournaments like this, past recipients of the coveted Golden Player award have enjoyed varying levels of success. Laurent Blanc (1988), Luis Figo (1994), Fabio Cannavaro (1996) and Andrea Pirlo (2000) have done all right for themselves, although Royston Drenthe (2007) sticks out somewhat.
Full list of English league-based non-English players
Andreas Christensen – Denmark and Chelsea
Lasse Vigen Christensen – Denmark and Fulham
Emre Can – Germany and Liverpool
Serge Gnabry – Germany and Arsenal
Marko Dmitrovic – Serbia and Charlton Athletic
Tiago Ilori – Portugal and Liverpool
All fixture news is available here.