Lochte won as many gold medals as the whole British team at the Worlds
United States swimmer Ryan Lochte says his team-mates now consider rivals from Great Britain a threat in the wake of British success in the last year.
Britain's swimmers won four gold medals at this year's World Championships in Rome - the US topped the table with 11.
"It's not just the US against Australia any more," said Lochte, part of the US team to face Europe in December's Duel In The Pool event in Manchester.
"Great Britain has been coming up and I know the US is watching out for them."
Of the US team's 11 gold medals, Lochte himself won four, equalling the tally for the entire British team.
But the 25-year-old, winner of three Olympic gold medals, added: "You can tell from the Worlds in Rome. Everyone's getting a lot faster and, with the suits gone in 2010, you're going to definitely start seeing more and more improvement."
It'll be a great experience to get used to what that atmosphere will be like in 2012
GB swimmer Gemma Spofforth
Controversial swimsuits which have allowed world records to be smashed by the dozen are set to be outlawed at the start of 2010, returning swimmers to slower, more conventional suits.
The move has been made to counter suggestions that swimmers were relying on performance-enhancing suits, and not their own talent, to win races.
When the US team faces a European team comprising swimmers from Britain, Italy and Germany on 18 and 19 December, the current, faster suits will still be legal.
But Michael Phelps, expected to star in Manchester, has said he will wear a "2010 swimsuit" - a less advantageous model designed to comply with new regulations. Lochte expects Phelps to try to convince him to do the same.
"If I do wear a 2010 suit like Michael then it's more of a challenge - and I love challenges so I'll be more than happy to do it too," stated Lochte.
The 36-strong US team for the event includes a number of big names, including Lochte, Phelps and Aaron Peirsol, alongside female world champions Rebecca Soni and Ariana Kukors.
Britain's Gemma Spofforth, herself a world champion in the 100m backstroke, said she looked forward to a home crowd getting behind Europe at the Manchester tournament - which has been dubbed the "Ryder Cup of swimming".
"I'm hoping we'll get a team atmosphere going, where all the spectators will get behind everybody, and there'll be a lot of people there from the US, Britain and Europe," said Spofforth.
I love Manchester, I just hope it's not so cold
Asked how she expected the European team to work, she said: "Hopefully we can sort the language barrier out, and realise a team's a team. No matter who's on that team, you're there to beat the opposition.
"I haven't experienced a home meet with a big crowd like this one should be. It'll be a great experience to get used to what that atmosphere will be like in 2012," added the 21-year-old, who missed last year's World Short Course Championships in Manchester.
Lochte, who won four gold medals at that event, said he was looking forward to returning - provided the weather improved.
"It's going to be tough but I'm excited," he said. "I love Manchester, I had a blast when I went over there, everyone's really nice.
"I just hope it's not so cold. Last time it was raining and freezing so I hope it's a little bit warmer."