When the U.S. U-23s meet Mexico on Wednesday, it will be far and away the stiffest test yet for Caleb Porter's group as they plot their course to the Olympic Games in London.
Mexico has named a team that will be pretty close to the one it will use in qualifying late next month, while the U.S. side is still a bit depleted with the absence of Europe-based players and the calls of Terrence Boyd and Brek Shea to the full team for Wednesday's match in Italy. But Porter will have to deal with similar issues next month, so the Mexico showdown will provide a true litmus test of the group's progress thus far. A good result will affirm the team's status as co-favorites alongside El Tri to advance to the Olympic Games; a bad showing in what amounts to their most serious test to date could throw some doubt on preparations with just weeks until the qualifying tournament.
Here are some questions to be answered and things to watch for on Wednesday night in Frisco.
How is the 4-3-3 working for the U.S.?
This system isn't as simple as having a pair of quick wingers and a center forward who finishes chances. The success of the formation also depends on center mids who can switch the point of attack and cover when caught on the counter. With quality wingbacks and quick-countering wingers, Mexico will be a great test of the system on both sides of the ball.
Can Teal Bunbury carry the load?