COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) _ Hundreds of young soccer fans swarmed the U.S. women's national team. They leaned over railings with outstretched hands, clutching posters, books and balls to get autographs from their World Cup heroes.

And this was only practice.

They were at Crew Stadium on Friday preparing to play South Korea in Sunday's U.S. Women's Cup. The stadium's 22,485 seats sold out in days for the doubleheader, which also features Finland and Brazil.

Later round U.S. Cup matches in Kansas City, Mo., and Louisville, Ky., also are expected to draw big audiences.

USA is the overwhelming favorite in the tournament and has a 15-0-0 record in five previous competitions.

Sunday's game is the third for the U.S. women since winning the Women's World Cup title on July 10 at the Rose Bowl.

With a win, the U.S. team will record its 23rd victory of 1999 and break the record set in 1998 for wins in a calendar year.

The Americans are 22-2-2 this year with both losses and one of the ties coming against China. The Women's World Cup final counts as a draw in the official records.

Along with the team's success on the field, its squeaky-clean image and several clever commercials have endeared the team to legions of fans.

With more than 80,000 tickets sold for the U.S. Cup, combined attendance for national team games in 1999 will pass 900,000 for the first time.

``Never in my wildest dreams did I think we would play in sellout stadiums like this and have crowds like we did this summer,'' said Mia Hamm, U.S. soccer's career scoring leader with 111 goals and 89 assists. ``It's a great opportunity to connect with local kids and get them excited about their potential and what they can do.''

Hamm will rejoin the team after missing the 6-0 victory over Brazil on Sept. 26 in Denver due to a hamstring injury.

Tiffeny Milbrett said it's important for the team to reach out to their fans by signing every autograph and thanking everyone.

``When we were these guy's age we really didn't have dreams to grab on to,'' said Milbrett, who leads the team in scoring this year with 19 goals and 11 assists. ``Kids can now dream big and if they want, they can be a national team player and an Olympian as well.''

John Carusillo, of Dublin, Ohio, and his wife Natalie, said their daughters Noelle, 12, and Michelle, 10, have ``girl soccer fever.''

``Their rooms are like shrines to Mia and teammate Christina Lilly,'' said Natalie Carusillo, who pulled her daughters out of school so they could attend Friday's practice. ``For them to have role models of the same gender seems to be a real big connection with them.''

The Carusillos said families will be tailgating in the parking lot on Sunday.

``It's not just a sporting event, it's a family event,'' John Carusillo said.