BARCELONA, Spain (AP) — For the U.S. diving team, the world championships starting on Saturday are the first step in a three-year plan designed to forge Olympic medalists in time for the 2016 games in Rio de Janeiro.

But to be ready for Rio, that first step may have to be backward.

"We have got a pretty young and inexperienced team, and I am going to be interested in seeing how they deal with the first time on the big stage," USA diving's high performance director, Steve Foley, told The Associated Press at Barcelona's Montjuic Municipal pool with its majestic views of the Barcelona skyline.

"That's what I am interested in as opposed to great results at this point in time because I am hoping they will get experiences and learn a lot that will help them toward 2016, which is when we want to be great at the Rio Olympics."

The U.S. diving team has undergone an extensive overhaul since the 2012 Olympic Games, according to Foley.

Even so, the squad has three pillars returning from London in medal winners David Boudia (gold), Kristian Ipsen and Troy Dumais (bronze) to help bring along its generation of hopefuls, and try for glory at the biennial worlds.

The crop of promising newcomers includes Amanda Burke (26) and Samantha Pickens (22), who will make their major international debut on Saturday in the women's 3-meter synchronized springboard.

They will face, among others, the clear favorites: China's Minxia Wu and new partner Zi He. Wu has claimed gold in the last three Olympics and the last three world championships.

Foley is not asking too much as far as results go. But that doesn't mean the pressure isn't on for the Americans at what Foley described as an "audition" for a more permanent place in the national team.

"If I had half the Olympic Team on this team I would say we'd be good," said Foley, a former three-time Australian Olympian. "But because we've got a whole new team, I'm just not expecting any incredible results. I'm interested in how they handle it, and if someone can stand up and come out of the blue, we'd love that.

"The Olympics is the ultimate in our sport and in swimming, but usually what happens at a world championships is that it often unveils a new superstar."

While the Chinese women pulled off a gold medal sweep in London, the Chinese men showed they were not entirely invincible. They won gold in both synchronized events, but Boudia won gold in the 10-meter platform and Russia's Ilya Zakharov took the top prize in the 3-meter springboard.

And with the U.S. and perhaps other teams looking toward the future, Foley sees China, the diving superpower, as poised to re-establish its dominance and believes the Chinese men will be even more motivated to win gold after letting two slip away in London.

"They are going to be coming out here trying to get revenge," said Foley. "Obviously they are favored to do a clean sweep, but it wouldn't surprise me if the Russian or maybe Boudia or someone does sneak one away from them again. In the women's they would have to almost lose it. They really are that far ahead at the moment."

The opening diving events on Saturday include preliminaries for the men's 1-meter springboard, when Ipsen will go for a medal repeat and 23-year-old Harrison Jones will get his first taste of a major competition.

All the diving, besides the new high diving event set in the harbor, will be held at the same pool used in the 1992 Olympics and the 2003 world championships perched on a hillside with Barcelona's Sagrada Familia basilica providing a unique backdrop to divers' tumbling twists and turns.

Ipsen, one of the three American leaders, said that the team has been "clicking" and nailing its dives in practice since it held a training camp in the Mediterranean island of Mallorca to get used to the time difference. Ipsen is going to perform new and more difficult dives with the aim of perfecting them for the big even in Brazil down the line.

"I am definitely looking to build for the future, but I feel you can do both," he told The AP. "Whenever I go into a competition I am thinking I want to go in and win. I want to do well and start a long journey right. I think it would be a good place to start for the next four years."