CHICAGO -- Kristine Lilly remembers little about the selection of the first U.S. Women's World Cup team in 1991, probably because the announcement didn't make much of a splash.
She marveled at the increase in interest in the event as she participated in a conference call Wednesday, after coach Greg Ryan picked the first 18 players for this year's squad.
When the World Cup begins in China in two months, Lilly, the 35-year-old team captain, will be participating for a record fifth time. She will be joined by at least 10 players making their World Cup debuts, the most rookies for a U.S. squad since 1991, when everyone was a first-timer.
"I didn't really know what I was a part of," Lilly said of the inaugural event. "I knew it was the World Cup, but I didn't know what it meant. After winning and being a part of it, I knew it was something we needed to share."
Ryan expects to make the final three selections to fill out the 21-player roster in the next few weeks. He said he wanted to get the initial picks out of the way.
"These players have been training and playing together the last two years," Ryan said. "There's always stress about whether you'll make the team. Based on the amount of time they'd had together, it's clear these 18 players are very deserving."
Briana Scurry will be in goal for her fourth World Cup. Defenders Kate Markgraf and Christie Rampone made their third World Cup teams, while defender Cat Whitehill, midfielders Shannon Boxx and Aly Wagner and forward Abby Wambach are playing in the event for the second time.
The rookies are goalkeepers Nicole Barnhart and Hope Solo; defenders Tina Ellertson and Stephanie Lopez; midfielders Lori Chalupny, Marci Jobson, Carli Lloyd and Leslie Osborne; and forwards Heather O'Reilly and Lindsay Tarpley.
The eight veterans have combined for 78 World Cup matches.
The youngest player and only nonprofessional selected is the 21-year-old Lopez, who has one season of eligibility left at the University of Portland.
Since taking over as coach in March 2005, Ryan has looked at 43 players in full international matches.
The Women's World Cup will be held in five Chinese cities from Sept. 10-30. The U.S. opens the tournament against North Korea on Sept. 11 in Chengdu.
Copyright 2007 by The Associated Press