Orlando City could be a big riser in the shifting Eastern Conference

Oct 16, 2022; Montreal, Quebec, Canada; CF Montreal forward Kei Kamara (23) reacts after being
Oct 16, 2022; Montreal, Quebec, Canada; CF Montreal forward Kei Kamara (23) reacts after being / David Kirouac-USA TODAY Sports

The Easter Conference of Major League Soccer could look vastly different than it did a year ago. Orlando City, fresh off a big transfer window, should be one of the biggest risers in the conference. We don't need to talk about Orlando's improvements this offseason here, but even without the quality of signings made by the Lions, the action around them could see them rise.

Three of the six clubs who finished above Orlando in the standings lost significant pieces this offseason without making major moves to improve.

Inter Miami took off like a rocket after trading for former MLS MVP Alejandro Pozuelo. The Herons haven't re-signed Pozuelo and star striker Gonzalo Higuain retired. There are also key holes dating back to last year throughout Miami's roster.

New York City FC has been one of the best and most consistent clubs in the league for the last half decade. This offseason, though, has been arguably its worst in MLS.

Attacking midfielder Maxi Moralez, goalkeeper Sean Johnson and center back Alex Callens all left the club this offseason. Those three helped build the core of this succesful era in the Bronx. As of now, nobody has been signed to replaced three Best XI caliber starters.

It's likely that NYCFC will sign players from off the radar to fill these roles sometime this season, but as of now this is a shell of the team that made a run to the conference finals last season.

CF Montreal --- the team that beat Orlando City in the playoffs --- also lost a ton from a team that finished second in the east last year. Head coach Wilfried Nancy left the club to sign with the Columbus Crew, and the roster suffered similar attrition.

Star attacking midfielder Djordje Mihailovic signed in Holland and starting defender Alistair Johnston signed with Celtic in Scotland. The club also lost star young midfielder Ismaël Koné to Watford in England.

The famously low spending Montreal team has yet to address the lack of top end talent on the roster and will likely rely almost entirely on improvements from within. The club also signed former DC United head coach Hernan Losada who had an unsuccesful year and a half stint in the nation's capital.

With all the attrition at the top of the Eastern Conference, the opportunity has never been clearer for Orlando to seize a home playoff spot this season. There will undoubtedly be heavy competition, but the Lions size up as one of the clear favorites heading into the season.