Lionel Messi investigated on accusations of tax evasion

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Barcelona newspaper El Periodico is reporting that Spanish authorities have targeted Lionel Messi and his father Jorge on suspicions of tax fraud and tax evasion.

The paper cites a €13 million ($17.3 million) figure owed by the Argentinian superstar, although subsequent reports in other media outlets have set the target more around €4 million ($5.3 million).

The paper cites a source which describes the deliberate evasion process by Messi as having been channeled through a process which sounds eerily similar to money laundering.

The source says the dodge “consisted of simulating the assignment of image rights to front companies based in tax havens [Belize, Uruguay] and, at the same time, formalising contracts of licensing, agency or benefit from services between these companies, and other such instruments domiciled in convenient jurisdictions [the UK, Switzerland]. This was done with the intended and successful aim that the incomes would move from countries where the companies or entities were based, to companies domiciled in tax havens, without being submitted to any taxation and, furthermore, with total opacity towards the Spanish Tax Authorities. The beneficiary of these incomes was no other than the person served – Lionel A. Messi.”

The period in question is apparently between 2007-2009.

UPDATE: Messi released a post on his official Facebook page denying the allegations. “We have just known through the media about the claim filed by the Spanish tax authorities. We are surprised about those news, because we have never committed any infringement. We have always fulfilled all our tax obligations, following the advices of our Tax Consultants who will take care of clarifying this situation.” Barcelona refused to comment on the situation.

Forbes ranks Messi as the 10th-highest paid athlete in the world at $41.3 million earned last year between salary, endorsements, and the like.

The case, at least in the beginning stages, will be brought to court in the Catalan town of Gava where Messi is registered for taxes.

The 25-year-old has been with the Argentinian national side, making an appearance as a substitute in Argentina’s 1-1 World Cup qualifying draw with Ecuador. His country has all but wrapped up a spot in Brazil 2014, sitting atop the CONMEBOL table with 26 points. Argentina are scheduled to play a friendly with Guatemala on Friday.

U.S. Open Cup roundup: Poku lifts Miami; Red Bulls, Cincy win on PKs

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While MLS represents the majority of the remaining clubs in this year’s U.S. Open Cup, one side continues to defy the odds.

[ MORE: Minnesota United adds Hearts midfielder Sam Nicholson ]

Miami FC reached their first quarterfinal in club history after knocking off Atlanta United late on Wednesday, behind a goal and an assist from Kwadwo Poku. The victory for Miami sets up a date with FC Cincinnati — who pulled off an unbelievable shootout win against the Chicago Fire.

Meanwhile, the New York Red Bulls and New England Revolution both advanced on the night with wins over the Philadelphia Union and D.C. United, respectively. The Red Bulls and Revs will meet in the final eight as well.

Sporting KC kept its hope of hoisting a fourth U.S. Open Cup title alive on Wednesday with a 2-0 win over the Houston Dynamo. The 2015 winners will take on FC Dallas — who defeated the Colorado Rapids on Tuesday night.

Here are all the results from tonight’s Open Cup action.

Houston Dynamo 0-2 Sporting KC
New England Revolution 2-1 D.C. United
Miami FC 3-2 Atlanta United
New York Red Bulls 1-1 (5-3 on PKs) Philadelphia Union
FC Cincinnati 0-0 (3-1 on PKs) Chicago Fire

Late action (10:30 p.m. ET kick off)

San Jose Earthquakes vs. Seattle Sounders
LA Galaxy vs. Sacramento Republic

Report: City Football Group set to expand outreach with Girona deal

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City Football Group appears on the verge of adding to its global outreach, and it’s next destination looks to be in Spain.

[ MORE: Are Southampton’s days of selling behind the club? ]

The group of investors, which are known for controlling Premier League side Manchester City, are reportedly nearing a deal to purchase a partial stake in Spanish club Girona — which is set to make its La Liga debut in 2017/18.

CFG is said to be gaining a near “50 percent” stake in the club, with the rest of the club owned by Media Base, a company owned by Pep Guardiola‘s brother, Pere.

Over recent years, CFG has vastly expanded its ownership outreach and currently has a stake in five clubs around the world, with Girona set to be the sixth.

MLS side New York City FC, Australian A-League side Melbourne City FC, Japan’s Yokohama F. Marinos and Club Atletico Torque in Uruguay are all part of the CFG enterprise, alongside Man City.

New York Red Bulls ink goalkeeper Luis Robles to new deal

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The “Iron Man” will keep up his amazing journey with the New York Red Bulls, after signing a new deal with the club on Wednesday.

[ MORE: Wesley Sneijder on verge of joining Los Angeles FC ]

Goalkeeper Luis Robles has extended his contract with the reigning Eastern Conference champions, as the American continues to raise his consecutive starts streak, which stands at 157.

The terms of the deal were not disclosed in the club’s release.

Robles joined the Red Bulls back in 2012 after playing in Germany, and the shot-stopper hasn’t missed a start ever since.

Report: Minnesota United adds Hearts midfielder Sam Nicholson

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Minnesota United has had its shares of ups and down in its debut MLS season, but the Loons are on the verge making an exciting young signing.

[ MORE: Wesley Sneijder closing in on Los Angeles FC move ]

ESPN FC is reporting that Minnesota will sign Hearts winger Sam Nicholson from the Scottish Premier League on a deal that makes him a Loon until 2019.

The young attacker is expected to join the MLS side when the summer transfer window opens on July 10.

Nicholson, 22, has played with the Edinburgh side since his youth days, and made his senior debut with the club in 2013. During his time at Hearts, Nicholson scored 16 goals in all competitions for the team.

Last season, Nicholson missed 16 matches due to a significant knee injury.

According to the report, Scottish sides Rangers and Aberdeen were also among those interested in acquiring Nicholson, while English Championship clubs Bristol City and Barnsley also reached out about the attacker.