Mia Hamm, Brandi Chastain and five other gold medalists from the U.S. Olympic women's soccer team in 1996 were selected yesterday to the squad that will head to the Athens Games next month.

Coach April Heinrichs finalized the 18-woman roster by cutting two players, Tiffany Roberts and Lorrie Fair.

"Over the last two weeks, it was increasingly apparent to me that this was going to be the most difficult selection process I've been part of," Heinrichs said.

The decision to place Hamm on the team, however, was easy.

Hamm is the world's all-time leading scorer with 149 goals and 132 assists and is considered the most recognizable women's soccer player in the world.

Chastain also was on the last two U.S. Olympic teams, although her defining moment remains her winning penalty kick at the 1999 Women's World Cup, and the celebration that followed.

Chastain is recovering from a bone bruise in her foot that has left her at about 95 percent, Heinrichs said. That injury is not the same as the stress fracture Chastain had last year in the World Cup.

Others making their third Olympics are Briana Scurry, Joy Fawcett, Julie Foudy, Kristine Lilly and Cindy Parlow.

One of Heinrichs's toughest decisions was to put forward Heather O'Reilly on the team in place of Shannon MacMillan. O'Reilly, who at 19 will be five years younger than anyone else on the team, is fully recovered from a broken leg that left her out of the running for last year's Women's World Cup.

A Rich Field for Tennis

Twenty-seven of the top 30 men's players -- including No. 1 Roger Federer and No. 2 Andy Roddick -- will compete in the Games.

Justine Henin-Hardenne leads the women's entry list, which features seven of the top 10 and 23 of the top 30, including Venus and Serena Williams.

"It took a few years for the players and the fans to understand what an honor and a privilege it is to compete for your country at the Olympic Games, but the response that we have received shows that the Olympics is now one of the most important events in tennis," International Tennis Federation President Francesco Ricci Bitti said.

Argentina will field a strong singles contingent with French Open champion Gaston Gaudio, No. 3 Guillermo Coria, No. 4 David Nalbandian and No. 18 Juan Ignacio Chela.

Spain's Juan Carlos Ferrero and Carlos Moya, Britain's Tim Henman and Germany's Rainer Schuettler also are in the singles draw.

Notable absences are former No. 1s and Grand Slam tournament champions Andre Agassi and Lleyton Hewitt.

Henin-Hardenne will be Belgium's only competitor after Kim Clijsters withdrew because of a sponsorship dispute. French Open champion Anastasia Myskina heads the Russian squad, which also includes 2000 silver medalist Elena Dementieva, Svetlana Kuznetsova and Nadia Petrova.

Amelie Mauresmo heads France's team, along with Mary Pierce, Sandrine Testud and Nathalie Dechy.