Navigating SOAP (and avoiding a Match Violation)

On Monday, March 3, 2022, NRMP and AAMC published a video on Navigating Match Week and SOAP, which video highlights the various processes, procedures, and “what to expects” for all individuals who have proceeded with the 2022 Main Residency Match.  (For information regarding certifying Rank Order Lists, see our prior post here. Regarding whether your circumstances required you to withdraw from the Match, see our prior post here.)  For those who do not successfully match, the prospects of SOAP week can be quite daunting.  Given the fast-paced nature of SOAP, policies regarding how applicants and programs must conduct themselves are often overlooked. On March 10, 2022, NRMP and AAMC published a video titled SOAP 101, which gives an excellent policy and technical overview of how SOAP works and what is expected of programs and candidates.

Our office has handled various mattes where NRMP has initiated inquiries and investigations regarding SOAP-related conduct.  If you find yourself having to participate in SOAP, you would be well served to familiarize yourself with NRMP’s Policies, which can be found here.   Among the most common NRMP investigations arising out of SOAP involve violations of the SOAP communications policy.  Per the 2022 Match Participation Agreement at Section 9.2:

“SOAP-eligible applicants must submit applications or other materials pertaining to the application using the ERAS system. Neither SOAP-eligible applicants nor their representatives may initiate any verbal, written, or electronic communication with any program until and unless specifically contacted by a program representative after the designated time on Monday of Match Week and after receipt of the ERAS application. If a program does not contact the applicant or the applicant’s representative, there may be no communication to the program. SOAP-eligible applicants may not receive communication from a program unless and until the applicant has applied to that program through ERAS. SOAP-eligible applicants receiving communication from a program to which they have not applied must report the communication to the NRMP.”

Bottom line: do not initiate contact with any program, and do not communicate with the program unless you have applied to that program through ERAS.  Programs must report unauthorized contact to NRMP. Failing to comply with the SOAP communication policies may result in a finding of a Match Violation.  If you find yourself concerned about whether your communications may constitute a Match Violation, you should immediately reach out to an attorney with experience in NRMP-related matters.

A final reminder: if you to not match, either through the Main Match or SOAP, all is not lost for training position with a 2022 start date.  As reflected in our previous article found here, positions filled through the Match and through SOAP become available for a wide variety of reasons, including:

  • Failed criminal background check during onboarding
  • Failed drug test during onboarding
  • Ineligibility due to immigrations status/work authorization status change
  • Inability to obtain training license/permit from state medical board
  • Any other change in circumstances prior to the commencement of the training program.

Programs seek waivers from the Match by the dozens, and look to fill those freshly open positions as quickly as possible.

Questions or concerns about the Match or SOAP? Our experienced attorneys have, on multiple occasions:

  • Successfully defended clients accused of violating NRMP’s SOAP policies.
  • Successfully obtained waivers on behalf of our clients, resulting in the client’s release from the previously binding match commitment.
  • Successfully opposed waiver requests filed by residency training programs, thereby requiring the program to fulfil its match commitment and offer employment to, and train, our clients.
  • Successfully overturned, by way of application for reconsideration, the approval of a waiver request granted to a program for release from a match commitment, resulting in our client, who had previously lost their opposition to the program’s waiver request, being employed by and training with the program that sought and was initially granted the waiver.
  • Successfully defended clients accused of violating the Match, including where the violation alleged originated from a program’s request for waiver from its commitment, resulting in no finding of a Match Violation for our client.
  • Successfully defended clients who, in their own waiver requests or responses to waiver requests, made statements that caused the NRMP to make allegations of a Match Violation, resulting in no finding of a violation by our client.

If you have any questions or concerns about compliance with any NRMP policies, including with respect to SOAP, seeking or opposing a request for a waiver from a binding Match Commitment or responding to Match Violation investigations, our experienced attorneys stand ready to assist.

For more than 10 years, Dennis L. Abramson has dedicated a significant portion of his practice to counseling and representing medical students, IMGs, residents, fellows, and practicing physicians in compliance and disciplinary matters related to ECFMG, USMLE, NBME, and NRMP, including responding to and defending allegations of irregular behavior and violations of the Match® agreement. Should you need advice or counsel with a related issue, please contact Mr. Abramson at 610-664-5700 or

Mr. Abramson regularly updates this page with the latest developments related to ECFMG, USMLE, NRMP, ABIM, irregular behavior, and physician licensing and credentialing issues, so check back soon.

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