Aberdeen midfielder Lewis Ferguson hopes a new challenge can lead to his side reaching the group stages of European football this summer.
The Dons will compete in the inaugural Conference League, Uefa’s third-tier European tournament, with their campaign due to start at the second qualifying round stage on July 22.
Ferguson said: “We watch Rangers and Celtic play in the group stages of the Europa League and that’s what we want to do.
“We aim for the Europa League every season, but thankfully there is another competition in place for us to go and play in and hopefully we can do well in it. The Conference League gives us a good chance of doing that.
“Europe is really good. You learn from games against teams from different countries and cultures. You want to play against the best and test yourself.
“Playing in Europe can help domestically as you have usually played a few games which helps build up your sharpness. I always feel those qualifiers really help your fitness as well as give you that experience.”
For Ferguson, this summer’s tournament will be his fourth campaign and he is eager to test himself against more European competition this summer.
The Scottish Football Writers’ young player of the year winner, who has been nominated for the award again following his displays this season, said: “I like the idea of the Conference League.
“In my time here we’ve done okay in qualifiers, but come up against really good sides near the final hurdle and it has always been a tough ask to get into the group stages of the Europa League.
“We’ve faced Burnley, Rijeka and Sporting Lisbon, who are really good teams, so I like the idea of having the chance of group stage football.”
The Conference League will be a new challenge, but the degree of difficulty remains as challenging as ever.
Feyenoord and Sparta Prague are among the sides set to join Aberdeen in the second qualifying round, while the likes of Lokomotiv Moscow and Anderlecht lie in wait in the third round. For those lucky enough to reach the playoff round, they could face Liverpool, Roma or Marseille.
But Ferguson believes the Dons should take confidence from their showing in defeat last summer.
The 21 year-old said: “It shows you can come up against some top sides with quality players when you see Sporting Lisbon are top of their league just now. They are a top side and we gave them a right good game.
“That’s what we’re in Europe for, to get the chance to test ourselves against those guys.”