• Rajani Katta MD and Samir Desai MD

What if I Don’t Match? An Introduction to SOAP Match (Supplemental Offer and Acceptance Program)

What is SOAP? How does the SOAP match work?

In 2012, the NRMP established the Match Week Supplemental Offer and Acceptance Program (SOAP). This program is for both unmatched applicants and unfilled residency programs.

  • During SOAP, applicants apply to residency programs through ERAS.

  • Programs interview applicants, usually by phone or virtually, and then create and submit their preference lists.

  • Through a series of rounds, positions are offered to applicants.

  • The SOAP takes place over the course of one week.

  • As you can imagine, things move very quickly during SOAP.

The SOAP replaced a process known as the Scramble, an incredibly chaotic experience for both applicants and programs. During the Scramble, there was a flurry of emails, faxes, and phone calls from applicants to programs. Applicants often had friends, family, advisors, and consultants advocate on their behalf, and the process was overwhelming for all those involved.

The creation of the SOAP brought order to the process, and established a set of rules to which both applicants and programs must adhere.

Image of unmatched applicants who eventually matched into residency programs through the soap match
The NRMP established the Match Week Supplemental Offer and Acceptance Program (SOAP) for unmatched applicants and unfilled residency programs.

SOAP Match Statistics:

The following are notable findings from the 2021 SOAP:

  • There were 14,115 applicants who were designated SOAP-eligible.

  • Over 42% of participants were non-U.S. citizen IMGs.

  • Over 26% of participants were U.S. citizen IMGs.

  • Approximately 15% of participants were U.S. seniors (allopathic).

  • Nearly 7% of participants were U.S. seniors (osteopathic)

  • There were 636 unfilled programs.

  • These programs made available 1,927 unfilled positions.

  • 52% of the available positions were for PGY-1 spots, the bulk of which were preliminary surgery positions.

  • The specialties with the largest numbers of unfilled positions were Family Medicine, Internal Medicine, and Pediatrics.

  • By the end of the SOAP process, 94% of positions were filled.

  • 48% of these positions were filled by U.S. allopathic seniors, 27% were filled by osteopathic students/graduates, and 18% were filled by IMGs.

Who can participate in the SOAP residency match?

Allopathic, osteopathic, and international medical students and graduates may participate in SOAP, as long as eligibility requirements are met.

These requirements include registering for the NRMP Main Residency Match, and being eligible to start residency training on July 1 of that year.

Below we answer some common questions about SOAP participation:

I did not apply to any programs prior to SOAP. Can I still participate in SOAP?

Assuming that you are eligible to participate in the residency match, you need not have applied earlier to participate in the SOAP process.

However, you must register for the NRMP Match. The late registration deadline is in March.

I applied to one specialty prior to SOAP. Can I apply to other specialties?

Yes. You can apply to other specialties.

I did not submit a rank order list. Am I still eligible to participate in SOAP?

Yes. You need not have ranked any programs to participate.

How do I know if I am eligible to participate in the SOAP match?

You will receive communication informing you of your eligibility to participate.

  • If you’re a U.S. medical student, you will be eligible for SOAP if your medical school indicates that you are on schedule to graduate before residency training begins on July 1.

  • For international medical students and graduates, ECFMG is responsible for verifying eligibility.

How does the SOAP residency match work?

A Timeline

Image of infographic on the introduction to soap match and timeline for the soap residency match
The SOAP match timeline

One Month Before Match Week

The SOAP moves incredibly quickly, and you need to be prepared. In fact, after being notified of an unsuccessful match on Monday of Match Week, applicants only have several hours to create, complete, and submit their applications for SOAP.

That's why it's so important to prepare in advance.

To make the most of this very short period of time, application documents should be prepared well in advance for any applicant who is at risk of not matching (and for those applicants who know ahead of time that they’ll be participating in SOAP).

  • Are there new letters of recommendation that need to be obtained for your specialty of choice?

  • Do you need additional letters for back-up specialties?

  • Will you need to write a personal statement for another specialty?

  • Will you benefit from an updated transcript?

  • Can the MSPE be updated to reflect all that’s happened since it was prepared the past summer?

These are all important considerations that you need to think about well before Match Week.

Once you determine what needs to be done, take the appropriate steps to ensure that these documents are available to you for the SOAP.

The SOAP Match Timeline for match week

At 11 AM EST Monday of Match Week

On Monday of Match Week at 11 AM EST, program directors and applicants learn the outcomes of the match process. One of three outcomes is possible for applicants:

A Complete match

With a complete match, your work is complete. You are fully matched. Congratulations!

An incomplete or partial match

An incomplete or partial match indicates that you are missing some component of your required training.